A Collection of Thoughts

For this introverted yet people loving Mama these summer months of transition and unknown has been quite challenging.  I don't even know where to begin.  May is an expected whirlwind and it definitely lived up to that expectation this year.  June is holding her own though and competing with a fury.  As I'm sure July and August will as well.  Sometimes it helps just to write, unedited so the thoughts in my head space are given life and matter and hopefully it all begins to make some sort of sense.  This morning I woke early, like before our 6:30am alarm early to attend a study discussion surrounding the Enneagram, a new topic I've been studying.  And then when I arrived at the noted location, no study group or discussion.  So here I sit, enjoying the sounds at the local coffee shop, typing away, Bible at the ready, people watching, listening and drinking my coffee, otherwise known as my happy juice.  It's hard for me to take this time for myself.  My mind wanders, I should be at home preparing everyone for their day, then I start listening in on the tables beside me, groups of women conversing, business meetings taking place, etc.  Focus Leanna, focus.  This commitment to write and practice and create is difficult.  I liken the process to running.  Some days are harder than others to roll out of bed, lace up the trainers and get going.  Now if I could bottle the feeling I have after a run I would never have a problem getting myself out there.  Same for writing.  As much as I love the creative process I struggle to make the time, to have it hold importance and priority in my schedule.  And it should.  Or better, I want it to.  It was one of my goals for this year of 2017, more writing, documenting and creating.  Not necessarily curating anything in particular but sharing my thoughts, observations and our lives.  Honestly and unfiltered, without holding back.  Still though I will re-read this post and fine tune where necessary before I hit publish. (Duh!)

So here's the latest and greatest with us.  We received news in May that Husband Jared had been offered a position with Apple in Vienna, Austria.  Let me begin by gushing for a moment on just how proud I am of him.  There were a few intense months of conversations and interviews and Face Time appointments with overseas market leaders.  After the lengthy process, including much prayer time and several family conversations he accepted and thus the ball was set in motion.  Allow me to share the back story here.  When we were traveling through Bavaria in the fall, after having dropped off Thing 2 at school, Husband Jared and I had a conversation that I haven't forgotten.  We were sitting at a cafe dreaming about our future, talking about how at peace and comfortable we were with the European lifestyle.  How invigorated our souls felt while traveling.  We were dreaming about the future and reminiscing in the sweetest way.  The memories we recalled about our time in Turkey and how that grew us in unexpected and necessary ways.  And then without hesitation we both said, we need to do this again.  As a family.  And thus, this journey begun.  With prayer and much enthusiasm Husband Jared started looking for openings abroad.  Asia was and still is a growing market and although there were opportunities it didn't "seem" right.  We were open to anything but I was hesitant to say the least. About a month later, while we were still debating the option of South Korea, a text from Husband Jared came through letting me know there was an opening in Vienna, next line, "what do you think?".  Without a second thought I responded with an excited, "go for it!".  Little did I know what the Lord had prepared for us.  Isn't that the case more often than not?  At least it has been for me in my walk with Him.

Here we are, mid-July, yes I started this post in June.  Negotiations are just about complete, we don't have a concrete move date as of yet and we are in the process of navigating leaving two of our four Things here in TN while we embark on this European adventure.  Now that is something that the Lord had not allowed to enter my mind throughout the decision making journey.  Maybe that was His protection, I don't know.  What I do know is that my Mama's heart is having to steady itself in new and uncharted ways.  Isn't that something?  His work is never done in me.  And everyone bellowed a resounding "Hallelujah"!  Wink, wink.  So, yes I write with confidence that the Lord has us exactly where He wants us and will move us where we need to be when it is time for us to be there.  My head is quite clear on the whole, they're His before mine, and His ways are higher and whatever other confidence inspiring Christian-ese you'd like to throw my way but my heart, well that's a different story.  What I am learning is that doesn't change who He is or who I believe Him to be or even my relationship with Him.  For me, it means that sometimes my heart is a bit slower to make the head-heart connection.  I logically know the truth but when it needs to sink in deep and take root, well now that takes time.  It also means being tethered to His word, His promises and His wisdom.

For reals though, I feel as if I've been on a roller coaster ride these last couple months.  They have been full and good, don't get me wrong, and hear me when I say I am grateful beyond measure.  But it's been tricky and messy.  Peaks and valleys friends.  And I'm talking about both my head and heart space and how that translates into actually living real life.  I'm feeling all the emotions, both my own and everyone around me.  Thank you Enneagram for helping make sense of that for me.  We'll just sum that up to my "two-ness".  Ahem.  Moving on.  I am revamping my business which calls, no actually demands, a level of self awareness and introspective thinking that has proven rather interesting for me.  Talk about revelatory moments.  In the midst of all this living, Thing 4 has been in Costa Rica with Royal Servants.  So we've been moving forward, having family meetings and celebrating and mourning all that has transpired and I've been missing a piece of my heart.  Cue the tears.   I am not looking for pity or sympathy.  No.  As I write my heart spills onto the page and the words and thoughts consuming me start to unravel and make sense.  They're less powerful when I see them on the screen, name them, give them a space to live in and then let them float down the river.  Another metaphor learned through the Enneagram and creating a meditative practice.  So much learning and growing.  Well, at least trying to and definitely being willing to.

See how quickly I digressed?  What began as a sort of catch up post morphed into a tangled page of words.  Spilled from head and heart unfiltered.  There you have it friends and here we come August.  We're ready for you.  I think.


Thing 2's 18th Birthday

Thing 2's 18th birthday.  Thankfully we were able to celebrate this milestone before leaving for Germany.  The family joined in, we sat around the table, told her the things we love about her, made a wish on a ginormous donut and spent the day doing whatever her heart desired.  It truly was a beautiful way to begin her year of 18.  My favorite is hearing all the beautiful parts of her that our friends and family appreciate.  I can't remember when or how we started this tradition but the pure joy on the receivers face of these edifying words is nothing short of heaven on earth.  Here's her celebration in photos.

Birthday dinner: caesar Salad, vegetable lasagna 

Birthday pie, chocolate silk of course, courtesy of Thing 3

Family selfie around the table 

Cousin Love

On your birthday confetti is a must!  

Present time!

August-September 2016...A month of preparation!

August was a full month, as they all are it seems.  Thing 3 returned from her mission trip with Royal Servants after being away for about 8 weeks.  Then our 19th anniversary.  We spent the night in Nashville, being tourists, eating at a few of our favorites and recounting the years, one at a time.  That's a new tradition for us and one that I hope continues.  From anniversary celebration to family time at the beach.  We traveled to Amelia island for a few days away from it all as six.  Again, a new to us place and one we so enjoyed exploring.  The shelling was incredible, shark teeth were found, there was a 9 mile accidental walk with Thing 2;  barefoot, in bathing suits and wildlife with no cell phone.  An adventure for sure.  At the end of it all we found our family and after easing their worries and apologizing profusely we promptly planted ourselves in the sand and vowed not to leave their sight.  We wandered around the quaint downtown, tasting treats from bakeries and fudge shops and a new craft brewery, it was sublime.  These people are my favorite to travel with and each trip opens my eyes in new ways.  So the photos below are of our time on Amelia island and then the drive home through Savannah where we made a quick pit stop to stare at the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, walk the fountains and countless squares and ooh and aah at the architecture and art alike.  Not to mention there was a bakery Thing 3 had been researching that required a taste test.  How could we have said no to that?  

She's home and I didn't let her out of my sight.  

Anniversary dinner at Lockland Table, of course.  

In the Capitol Building.

Road trip to Amelia Island, lunch stop at a Turkish restaurant in Midtown, Atlanta.  

Card playing a the beach.  

Family sand selfie!

Seafood lunch for the win.

This is how we all feel about being at the beach! 

Skim boarding, all day, everyday. 



Downtown Amelia island.

Boy wonder or pirate?

Savannah, GA.  

Back in the Day Bakery.

Fountains and plazas and parks.

The remainder of August and the first few weeks of September were filled with the joyful mundane and a bit of prep and planning for Thing 2's adventure to Bible school in Germany.  There were family breakfasts, game nights, a tournament in Kansas City, MO for Thing 4, a few weeks later a trial for the academy team for Thing 4, the first days of school for Things 1, 3 and 4, and a race in which the entire family participated in some capacity.  Here are those highlights in photos.  

Thing 2 and his best buddy, on and off the pitch.  

Team lunch with the teammates visiting from South Africa, an unforgettable experience for Thing 4. 

Rube Goldberg machine planning.  Hours were spent with tape, cardboard scraps and his imagination.

The game of LIFE.

Family Breakfast.  Almost all of us were awake. 

Thing 1's first pop up with SHINE jewelry! 

The only photo I snapped of Thing 4 at his academy trial.  I never want to forget that moment.  From the hours of training, the locker room tour, his nerves, the prayers spoken over him and the result and thus the conversation and consoling that ensued following.  

5K and 10K finishers!  

Family Labor Day run benefitting Mercy Clinic.  Aunt Natalie, Thing 4 and myself ran the 10K, Uncle Jeff, Things 2 and 3 ran the 5K and the littles ran the 1K.  

Husband Jared and I were away with Thing 4 in Kansas City for the first day of school so Thing 3 sent me this photo to document the day.  In her jammies at her dining room table beginning her junior year.  Three cheers for homeschooling!  

Thing 4's first day of high school, in a Starbucks in Kansas City, MO, in between work outs.  

Thing 1's first day of college at Nashville State University!

A Post for Polo

I never planned on becoming one of those people.  You know, the ones that talk about how their pets are part of the family.  Well I did and I was.  That was clearly evident when we received news that our beloved Polo had lymphoma and he was deteriorating quickly.  For a week he had refused his food, had labored breathing and declined our long walks around the park.  I noticed the symptoms but attributed them to a cold and then the bladder issues began and there was no turning back.  I am aware this may be too much information for some, but for me, I woke up with a pull to write Polo's story because it was so intertwined with our family's.  And I miss him.  A lot.  

Our girls had petitioned us for a dog for years.  I believe since their brother had been born, so we were going on at least three at the time we started considering the notion of adding more crazy to our chaos.  It was then, with Husband Jared and I both working retail management positions full time that we agreed to "get a dog".  The caveat was that Thing 4 needed to be potty trained before said pet could be acquired.  Ha.  At the rate that was going I seriously believed that I had a few months, at the least, before we would be asked again.  Little did I know that a few weeks later on a rare day off as a family of six the Things and I would wander into a Petsmart and discover it was adoption day for the local animal shelter.  Hmmm.  We looked through the glass and then we spotted him.  I am almost certain the kind volunteer took one look at us all and thought "this ones in the bag".  He opened the kennel and brought the sweetest, most rambunctious pup out to meet us.  "Oh, we're just looking", I said.  And then two minutes later, after being introduced to "Mohamed", his name at the time, I was calling Husband Jared and asking him to meet us in the back of the store.  Ahem.  So much for a united front and waiting until that whole potty training thing happened.  I could not resist the cuteness.  First, of my Things talking in sweet, high pitched voices and secondly of this odd, yet endearing pup that was staring through my soul with his big black, eyeliner eyes.  

If you're wondering, yes, Polo did become ours that day.  Although he wasn't able to join us at home for a week, which left us more than enough time to purchase all gear puppy related.  Never mind an actual training class or a book on dog behavior.  We were parents of four children under the age of five, we had this one in the bag.  Laughable I tell you, that's what that thinking was and is.  Anyhow, after spending a gazillion dollars on all the necessities we welcomed our pup home.  The big decision weighing on everyone was his name.  With four Things all invested in this process we tried to be democratic.  Which means, everyone (the kids), wrote their two top choices for his new name on a piece of paper.  Our plan being that which ever name was drawn out of the hat would be his name for life.  Needless to say that did not go exactly as planned.  Doggy-dog was the first name drawn, after that Mohawk and it digressed from there.  The noise level was rising and everyone thought theirs was the best fit.  That is when I looked across at Husband Jared sporting a "Polo" brand shirt with the trademark embroidered polo player and I might have shouted, "his name WILL be Polo".  And there you have it folks.  Democracy out the window, order undone.  Parent rule wins.  He has been Polo ever since.  Or Polo-lolo, or Lollipop, or Marco-Polo and any other of 100 names he has been called. Some of which do not need to be mentioned here.  

So life with a dog and four Things under the age of five commenced.  Kennel training was a nightmare, the puppy had more energy than any of us had to give and he thought he was herding sheep for a while with our four chasing him around the yard.  Thing 4 was just the right size for him to jump on and paw at.  Funny enough, none of the Things seemed to mind.  They would chase him around the back yard for hours.  All four taught him how to climb our stairs and patiently carried  him up when it was time for bed.  It was all too sweet.  Most of the time.  I had no recollection of what life with a puppy would be.  Exhausting and frustrating would be my two choice adjectives.  The dog was insane.  He would jump over our bed, mess the covers and dart from room to room, snagging the berber carpet we had at the time.  Better yet, when I would try to stop him, he'd stare me straight in the eye and run the other direction.  Yes, funny.  At least now it is, at the time, not so much. 

We survived those early puppy months and then Polo had his first plane ride.  In June of the following year Polo boarded his first flight to GA, where Husband Jared and Uncle Jeff would be meeting him and then driving him to TN, our soon to be new home.  I owe Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie a debt of gratitude for all the time they invested in Polo.  He had his first taste of a normal schedule, boundaries and rules at their home, along with his cousin Bobby Jackson, the Horel's new puppy.  Polo learned not to jump on the counter, or people, and he also learned how to walk properly on a leash.  Go figure.  It wasn't all roses over there.  I love hearing the story of Uncle Jeff catching Polo with his paws on the counter and then how Polo skidded across their floor trying to run away from his master at the time and Uncle Jeff tackling him.  The dog was fortunate not to be sent away at that point.  

Soon after the rest of his family arrived and he took up residence with us.  The Things could be found chasing him around the neighborhood.  That is after they had left the storm door open and he darted out of the house thinking this was a fun game of run away.  We did get to know our neighbors well though.  There are countless stories to tell here.  Trust me, I could go on and on.  Polo spent so much time in the backyard here, it was fenced in and one spring day we were planting a garden with the Horel's and Bobby Jackson did not like what Polo was doing, Polo never was a fast learner and so he got the worse end of it was a piece of his ear missing.  I was devastated, wrapped his ear in gauze and didn't want to leave him because it wouldn't stop bleeding.  He was fine.  Here's the thing about Polo he was resilient and forgiving.  

After four years of living in TN we moved abroad and Polo went on another adventure, to AZ this time.  He spent the winter there with Poppi and Nana and then returned before the summer heat to live with Gpa and Mema until our return.  Polo logged some miles that year and learned about scorpions and desert animals and then ducks and turtles and just how tiring swimming in ponds can be.  He had mellowed out a bit at this point, well, at least somewhat.  It was a necessary survival mechanism living with four Things and having to be flexible in your accommodations.  Polo then road tripped to MN, our soon to be new home, with Husband Jared, spent his first night in a people hotel and then had a few weeks reprieve from all of us at the pet hotel.  According to Husband Jared he was quite the road trip companion.  Once we were settled in our new home we picked him up from the kennel and I don't know who was happier, us or him.  It was as though part of our family was missing. Even while living in Turkey I missed our walks and having him greet us at the door with his wagging tail.  In MN Polo learned about winters and icicles on his beard and paws.  He sledded and walked on the slippery ice and enjoyed our walks through the prairie.  Usually.  I must share one of our favorite stories about Polo at this point because it took place in MN.  All of us were gathered in the dining room when Polo realized there was a crumb left behind.  It was under the bar stools and he poked his head between the slats when he was stuck.  Of course this startled him and his head was lodged in between the slats of the stool and he couldn't get himself free.  Once we realized he needed help we came to his rescue but anytime we are reminded of this shenanigan the laughter ensues.  Or maybe the time he ate two pounds of raw Italian sausage that was supposed to be our Christmas eve dinner.  Then there was the time he ate a dozen chocolate cupcakes, wrappers and all.  He loved butter.  Anytime sticks of butter were within reach on the counter he would help himself and then stuff the wrapper in the couch cushions, hoping to hide the evidence.  Four years later we were once again moving.  This time back to TN.  Polo road tripped with us, no flights necessary,  and stayed in a people hotel too.  His manners left a little to be desired and he dropped a nice present for all the guests in the hallway.  Oops.  Such is life traveling with a dog, who most of the time thinks he's a person. 

It was cold in MN!

Snuggled in his favorite place, my bed. 

Now the present, for the past, almost, two years we have been in TN, Polo included.  We began noticing he was slowing down but then he would surprise with a youthful run or play time and we would happily continue about our business.  He no longer ran away when off the leash and was accustomed to sleeping on our beds, usually Thing 4's.  The two of them have a special bond.  I like to think that's because they grew up together.  Thing 4 would always be right in Polo's face, staring into his eyes, squeezing him, kissing him, etc.  You get the picture, right?  He tasted his first "pup-cup" from Thing 3's Starbucks and life was good.  And then all of a sudden it wasn't.  

We all kidded and talked about his demise, I think because we all believed he was going to live forever, or at least until he was sixteen.  The Things would ask about getting a puppy to help Polo feel young again, or make comments about what we were going to do when he was gone.  Even I would.  In my heart I hated to even fathom that notion.  He was my sidekick.  My shadow and dare I say, my buddy.  When no one else was home he and I would have some great conversations.  Stirring discussions about nature, what was for dinner, if we should go on a drive with the windows down.  All manner of topics.  He would curl up underneath my desk when I was writing or grading school work.  Polo made it painfully obvious that he was not himself any longer.  It hurt us to watch him suffer and still when it came time to make the decision regarding his diagnosis it wasn't easy.  We wanted to hang on a bit longer.  Go on one more walk.  Have him chase one more treat around the house just so we could watch him when he looked like a rocking horse.  But that wouldn't have been best for him.  So we had to say goodbye.  Friends, let me tell you that was not an easy thing to do.  Watching our Things grieve Polo was rough.  I couldn't keep it together.  It was almost as if he knew.  There was a blanket waiting for him in the room and he laid down immediately.  We showered him with love and held his fu-man-chu face in our hands and rubbed his ears, all his favorite spots.  I kissed him and cried into his neck.  And then it was over.  

I woke up today looking for him, waiting for him to come running down the stairs to go outside.  I walked over to his water dish to refill it, only to realize Husband Jared had already moved it.  Weird, how an animal can become so entrenched into our daily routines and our lives.  Polo existed with us.; A part of our family and by doing so I learned so much.  It sounds cliche and I hesitated to even write this post because of that, but he did teach me and I did love him.  We all did.  He taught our children about responsibility, caring for something other than yourself.  I learned about forgiveness and unconditional love.  It did not matter if I had punished him thirty seconds ago, he would still come to me with his tail wagging, licking my hand and wanting my attention.  Especially if I had bacon.  Polo was loyal.  Our wanna-be courageous guardian.  Although, really, he would just bark until you were close enough for him to lick and sniff inappropriately.  He tried.  Regardless, I felt safer when I was the only human in the house if he was with me.  The dog was not typical.  He lived outside the "dog" boundaries and I loved him even more for it.  Which in turn is an applicable life lesson as a human too.  Be you, no one else can.  Polo had a gentle, mellow spirit with children, with adults, with other dogs.  It was who he was.  He was sad when his people weren't around.  And now we will be sad without him.  So here's to Polo, you are loved and you will be remembered.  Thanks for loving us for 12 years, it was a good run.