family

DANCE, AUNT FRANNIE PANTS

LASDI©

LASDI©

There is such a free feeling that dancing brings about.  It’s the closest thing to magic, really.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a skilled ballerina or an “Elaine” from Seinfeld, there is something about dancing that makes the suppressed insecurities come out and fly away; it makes you gain a liberty and brings about a confidence you didn’t know you had.  It happens in an even stronger way when you look around the dance floor and see so many others riding that very same crazy dance train you’re on.

Maybe that’s why some people refuse to do it no matter what.  They are afraid people will see them unbutton their spirit and let go of their inhibitions, and that’s a very vulnerable place to be.

Aunt Frannie was a dancer.  I don’t mean she was some professional reality dance show contestant, or that she went around the house with her tap shoes on.  I mean she rode a crazy dance train in life that when she felt vulnerable or insecure about things, she would look around the floor and see the other dancers in her circle and make some pretty unique moves in order to feel stronger.

When we spin, we tend to get dizzy.  But there’s something about dancing so that when you twirl around and around, you’re living your truth.  Aunt Frannie could twirl like nobody’s business.  There was much twirl in that girl.

When we are furious about hard times, it can make us feel unglued or out of control.  Fury is an emotion that can make us shut down and give up.  Not Aunt Frannie.  Those things made her dance even harder until sweat was upon her brow.  You know why?  Because she knew that hard times require furious dancing.

“Wave your hands in the air, like you just don’t care.”  I love those lines of the song that seem to make everyone’s arms go up and their hands shimmy-and-shake.  You can almost see it in their eyes and smiles as their delight seems to increase while they do.  I’ve seen Aunt Frannie do it.  And it was extraordinary.

Trust me – that lady could do the Hokey Pokey and turn herself around, because to her, that’s what it was all about.

All of us know that life is unchoreographed.  It brings the unexpected.  That’s how Aunt Frannie danced, though each step she took gave the impression that they were carefully composed.  That’s because she was her own choreographer, and not one single wiggle was created without intention.

When we leap, we feel joy.  Aunt Frannie knew exactly where her heart leapt.  No bones about it, her family was her joy.  Her utterly devoted husband of 53 years; the children she raised with a truly organic love; the grandkids that had limitless affection from her; and the great grandchildren that made her dance leaps go as high as the stars.  Cousins, nieces, nephews and friends made her love leap outside the regular boundaries of  the dance floor.  She was very well aware of the joy siblings can bring about, though that never made her dance just like them.  Oh, no.  Aunt Frannie danced to her own tune. 

When she met The Hubster, Adrian, he asked what he should call her.  (The ‘Get Jiggy With It’ dance begins.)  She replied, “You can call me Aunt Frannie.” (a bit of a ‘Two-Step’ thrown in for fun)  After replying with a nodding understanding, (an old ‘Head Banger’ move from the way-back), Aunt Frannie looked up at Adrian and into his eyes (a deep expression of ‘The Tango’) and jokingly said, “Or call me whatever you want, as long as you know I wear the pants in this relationship.” (Dance Off Challenge!!), to which he answered, “Okay!  Aunt Frannie Pants it is!!” (Challenge. ACCEPTED!)

And then there was me.  I have always been honored to partner up with her in the dance of love and life, and ever-grateful that she made room on the dance floor for me when our song came on.  I learned quite a few moves from her, in fact.  Have you heard of Inspirational Dance?  She invented it just for me.

A real dancer has to fill their space with their own personality.  And that is just what Aunt Frannie did.  Much like music, she had the joy of movement and the heart of life.  So, make sure to dance and sing to the music in your own heart, and don’t let one note go without a little sway or one beat-of-the-drum go without dancing.  Let the rhythm help you find your joy, and leap!  Accept the challenge and DANCE.  Just like Aunt Frannie Pants.

Dance with the angels, Aunt Frannie Pants.  And one day, I hope to share the same dance floor again.

THE BEACH AND THE PIT

Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Every year somewhere around the 4th of July, The Hubster and I go camping on our Annual Beach Date Trip.  It's only one night, but it has become a tradition I look forward to so much, that when we are leaving the beach from one trip, I am already talking about the next one to come the following year.

I am a girl who thrives on tradition; the history of things excites me.  I can't explain it.  I'm the one who buys a beat-up torn-down table because it is that way.  I've had someone ask me as I made a purchase like that how I was going to refurbish it, to which I replied, "I'm not.  I absolutely love the cracks and weathered appeal.  It tells me all about it's character."  The person looked at me like I was mad, and it made me smile.

Building traditions is like that for me.  I believe it creates the legacy we live in the present and the one we leave behind.  I don't think anyone is going to remember things I said or did in 100 years, but perhaps I can build traditions in our family that continue to be passed along from generation to generation and that may make a difference both now and long after I'm gone.

It is crucial to part of that legacy that The Kiddos and Grittles (GRAND Littles) see The Hubster and I make time for one another; that we still date each other.  It is vital to the lifeline of their own marriages and relationships.  Hence, the Annual Beach Camping Date Trip!

It's pretty simple, really.  We take our tent, which we set up in the back of the truck instead of on the sandy beach.  There has to be a thermos of wine and two plastic wine glasses.  We take along hot dogs and tortillas to wrap them in - and don't forget the skewers to hold them over the fire!  

Ah, the fire.  It's essential to a successful night, and I mean ESSENTIAL.  We go around the beach collecting wood and shells to create a pit for the fire.  We roast those wieners, sip our wine, look up at the stars, and listen to the roar of the ocean waves (and maybe a little Enya).

We play verbal games that remind us of how rich beyond riches we are.  We play "What's the Top-Five Most-Beautiful Places We've Ever Been" game, and "Top Three Favorite Restaurants", or "Best Family Vacay Memories".  We talk about our wedding, which by no coincidence, took place on the beach.  We never let any sad or unhappy memories interfere with our date - we have enough of those during our regular-life days together!  #Reality

One of our favorite games is something we actually do on our regular days together, but this time with a twist.  On normal days at dinner together, whether we are by ourselves, with The Fam, or with friends, we play "The Pit and the Peak".  This game is where everyone goes around saying the worst part of their day first (The Pit), and then to end on a good note they must say the best part of their day (The Peak).  

Since no worst part of any day is allowed to be discussed on this date, we call it "The Beach and the Pit".  This is where we sit around that fire pit we built in the sand, and talk about all of the best parts of our marriage - the things one has said or done for the other in order to edify them; the times that stand out to us in a great and fond way.  Now sometimes things are repeated from the same game the year before, and that is more than okay.   And there are the new moments from the time we left the beach the year before to the present that we talk about.

It is so easy for we, as mere humans, to cling to the bad.  It is, in fact, easier to place any good on a forgotten shelf if something bad occurs.  We all do it, really.  But life is too short to allow that to happen, so I will fiercely fight for the memories of the happy things - the good parts - even if it means I fight fire with fire by sitting around one and forcing those memories to the surface.  It is the best medicine for those regular days that bring reality back into play.

Do you have beat-up torn-down memories in your own history that tend to make you feel like you need a refurbished life?  Do you allow them to make you feel cracked and weathered or know that it builds character in you and can create a good-and-long-remembered legacy you can leave behind?  Does it make you look back and feel like a mad person or make you smile?

Real life is not always beachy and full of fun and games - trust me, I know.  But it is definitely what you make of it and what you allow it to make of you.  Don't put all the good on a forgotten shelf.  And mark out those times to remember the peaks - even if it means you must fiercely fight to do so.  And in order to see you are rich beyond riches, let the fondest pit be the fire.

beachdate

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

LASDI©

LASDI©

Christmas is coming!  I love the Christmas season.  I don’t really have a standout favorite thing about it.  Well, that’s not true.  I LIVE for Countdown to Christmas on The Hallmark Channel.  But rather than have to decide what I like best about the holiday, I choose to like all of it equally: the decorations, the Christmas music, the lights; ALL of it!  But there are certain branches of Christmas that kindle special memories and spark a few flames in the heart.

We are definitely a family that stands united and that stands on tradition.  For us, Christmas starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Every year we go pick out the perfect-not-perfect tree. When The Kiddos were Smalls, we went together as a family and it would take us hours to find the right tree.  Even though they all liked something different, we wouldn’t leave until we all agreed on one.  The Hubster and I would nearly always agree on the tree we liked, and of course, each Kiddo would choose a different one.  At that point, it was time for all of us to go to each tree everyone liked and “sell” the others as to why that would be the Christmas tree for the house. 

But no matter which one we ended up deciding upon, we knew what awaited us when we got home.  Christmas-tree-decorating-day meant The Hubster climbed into the attic and brought all the packed-up Christmas boxes down for us to deck the halls, and it also meant cinnamon popcorn and homemade eggnog.  We turned on Christmas music (the classic kind, of course) and away we would go.

Now that The Kiddos are Talls, they still hold that day as the day for putting up the tree and getting their ornaments up in their own homes.  And so, still, do we.  Now each year, The Hubster and I go and pick out our own tree knowing it’s a reminder of times gone by.  For the last few years the tradition has been for Aunt Lu to come with us and help us choose.  The three of us still do the walk-and-find.  My choice is not always what most people would want, though. 

When I go a-tree huntin’, the big winner is always one that stands up straight, because I believe we stand up straight when we’re confident about life.  We shake the tree, and if the needles fall off right away, it doesn’t get picked.  That means it’s not healthy enough to last, and I intentionally choose health for The Fam so that we can last and be together as long as we can.  To pull a tree out and see if it’s rounded all the way around or flat on one side, and that the trunk is large enough to be grounded into a tree stand, is a big deal.  My goal for my family and myself is to be sure we are grounded, and well-rounded in everything we do.  I especially like the ones that are a little imperfect; the ones that maybe have some sort of gaping hole or seem to have some branches that jut out further than the others.  I like the ones that are blemished in ways that show the flaw, though it may be a little hard to see.  Isn’t that how we are as mere humans?  We try so hard to look a certain way or stand out, knowing each one of us is imperfect on the inside, though it may just barely be enough for anyone to see.

Once we find the precise tree, we place vintage ornaments on it with the greatest care.  Each one gets unwrapped and hung in just the right place.  Now I know some of you have that ornament OCD The DAUGHTS talked about in her blog, The Untidy Tribe, but as for The Hubster and I, we just put them on the tree where we really believe they belong.  If that means a couple hang close to one another, then so be it.  Even with that, there is a parallel to what we feel for our family and community not just at Christmas, but every day – we want to hang close to one another, believing we are in the exact right place with the right timing for each season.

Christmas is coming!  How have you stood united with those you love?  What traditions have you kept or created to give a sense of who you are and the legacy you build to tell your story?  Do you embrace your imperfections, no matter how you decorate the outside?  How do YOU choose YOUR Christmas tree? 

“Oh, Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches.”

The Perfect Blend

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rgarciasuarez74/4012174390/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rgarciasuarez74/4012174390/

When I met Adrian, it was clear we had similar "baggage". We both came from a not-so-amicable divorce, we both had children from that previous marriage, and we both were never going to get married again. (Ya see how that worked out, don't ya?)

These days, we live in a society of blended families. It's the norm, really. People never used to be as surprised to hear an older, married couple say they were celebrating their 25th, 40th, or 50th wedding anniversary. Nowadays, it's astonishing just to hear if someone hasn't been divorced at least once. And yep - I'm part of that society.

After we started seeing each other on a serious level (sounds so mature, doesn't it?), we knew that we weren't just seeing each other, but also each other's children. Then, when we got married, we knew we weren't just marrying each other, but becoming part of the parental units the children would share. I am a person of faith, and I can tell you that the moment I accepted Adrian's proposal, I prayed he would be an example of a man that would buy the truth and not sell it; gain wisdom, instruction, and understanding, and then deliver it to our children. I prayed with all my might he would put aside all judgment and generously share with the children his unconditional love he had for me, and that he would have a "Joseph-spirit", (Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, who, in my opinion was the greatest step-father who ever lived).

I prayed he would be the perfect father, and that together we would be the perfect parents.

Um, NO.

Though at the present time I am the richest woman in the world, it has not come without its trials, pitfalls, difficulties, and snags. The process has been less-than-perfect. There have been disagreements, arguments, knock-down-drag-outs, and moments we are less-than-proud of. We have seen illness, death, valleys, and psychiatrists. We have had seasons where we gained friends and family, but also lost friends and family. We have shared in drama, defeat, lost savings; had powerful, emotional lows, and scraped the bottom of life's barrel. And we did it all together.

Don't get me wrong, we have all - Adrian, me, AND the kids - worked at it with all our hearts, and the price of the success we share as a family unit came through that hard work and dedication. Because with all of those things, we have also seen grace, mercy, compassion, and triumph over illness. We have been taught endurance, grown in faith, strength, and perseverance, and learned to trust. We have celebrated the peaks, marriages, each other, life, and love. And we did it all together.

We have a beautiful family, and we are protective of that. We live a charmed life, always enjoying the things that most people don't see right in front of them, and we are joyful and thankful for that. But if it was all taken away from us tomorrow, we would remember that life is a big canvas and we threw all the paint on it we could; we would remember that we made the decision to be a family and commit ourselves to making it a success; we would remember that without the valleys there would be no peaks. We would remember that we were given the gift of being like a unique wine - the gift of being intricately perfected and blended.

CrossingJordan

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

This image is © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

Being a blended family is no easy task.  It’s been done since the dawn of time, though; even in biblical times.  Joseph is probably the world’s best-known and greatest step-dad ever!

Well our blended family dynamic is one we are consistently working on.   As people change and grow, so does the dynamic.  Jordan is our youngest.  He has always been our “quiet one”.  But, just like his dad, though he doesn't have much to say, when he does, it’s funny, crazy, or profound.

I remember showing him how to tie his shoe: “Over, under, around, and through…that’s how Jordan ties his shoe!”  I remember him saying the word shoes in Spanish – “zapatos” – and he would crack me up every time because of how deliberate and intentional he was about it.  I remember him saying he wanted to be a fireman when he grew up so I arranged for a tour of a firehouse – he screamed and cried the entire time, louder than the firetruck!

Once, he came home and said, “I’ve been thinking about what you were going to cook for dinner aaall day!  You’re a good cooker!”

All good memories.  I would be remiss if I told you it’s all been cheese and lollipops, though.  Of course, we have had disagreements.  Of course we have had misunderstandings.  Of course we have had moments of pain, suffering, and disappointment.  But that happens in ANY family.

I am grateful for Jordan.  Without him even knowing it, he has changed my life in so many ways.  Chelsea and Cameron are so outgoing and (booyah!) “in-yo-face”.  I've watched poor Jordan take a back seat to that so many times – but with quiet fortitude and grace.  I've learned that you can scream something to someone in a relationship without ever making a sound because of Jordan.  I've learned that sometimes that’s best.  I've also learned that you can love a child as though they are your very own, even when they are not because of Jordan.  I've learned that a blood relation does not mean unconditional love, but rather unconditional love deepens a relationship.  I've learned, because of Jordan, that there are more than two sides to every story, and that truth is vital.

I spend a lot of time writing blog posts about my family because they've all been strategically placed in my life to continue to form and mold me.  I blog about all the paths these people in my life have crossed and the way it’s made me become She – the way it’s helped me form my living legacy and the legacy I leave behind.  I've written about crossing paths with many different people, but before today, I’ve yet to write about crossing Jordan and the difference he’s made in me.

Who has made a difference in your life that may not get quite the credit they deserve?  Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used. 

These images are © 2015 by Life As She Does It. Please link back or credit if any content or images are used.