Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's gettin' hot in here!

It's been a hot minute since I blogged! And I mean a HOT minute. Everywhere we've been recently has been so dadgum HOT! It's HOT here in Florida, and it was even hotter in MS, where Baby and I just got back from visiting.

Hot in Florida, somehow resemble summers spent with my grandparents. Days spent playing under big shade trees, swimming in the pool, and eating ice cream.
Hot in MS brings me back to my childhood. Mornings spent riding horses, and afternoons spent jumping into their water troughs! Sounds gross, but water is water!

It really doesn't get any better, than sitting out on my parents porch with my dearest friend, sipping on ice cold white wine, when it's 8pm and it's still hot enough to fry an egg on the driveway.

Maybe it's because MS knows me a little too well, maybe it's because my sweet puppy Duchess isn't alive and waiting for me in my parents backyard, but there was something different about coming "home" this time. Something sweet and dear, but also something telling me, that my precious family's "home" isn't there any longer. It's with my incredible husband and my wild and crazy Baby Ben :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kick Kick Kick!

(My Grandmother Puddie died last fall. She was the third family member I've lost in the past 6 years, who had an incredibly deep impact on who I am now as an adult. It's taken me months to write about her, but hopefully this does her memory justice.)

If I close my eyes really tight, and the hot summer wind blows my hair, I can still feel the sting of the chlorinated water in my nose, and I SWEAR I can hear my grandmother, Puddie's voice.
I hear her teaching me my name, on a very long car ride to see my cousins in Atlanta.
M-A-R-Y K-A-T-H-R-Y-N F-L-A-N-G-A-N. Over and over and over again.
(Sure wish she'd been available when I got married and changed my last name! Merrifield took some time to spell correctly!!)

I can see the exact shade of lipstick she always wore, in a silver tube. I can't smell Chanel number 5 without picturing her. Puddie. In her worn out tennis shoes. T shirt knotted at her hip. Shorts on. Short dark hair. Incredible smile. I'm pretty sure I remember every thing of importance she ever told me. "Don't smack your gum. You'll sound like a cow chewing cud!"
I had zero clue what cud was at the time, but I never smacked my gum again.
Puddie was the first person (besides my precious parents) who made me feel like I was something pretty special. I've never felt so treasured, than when I was with her.
She made me feel, like we were the only two people on this earth. Time would stand still, and it would be just us two. Puddie always let me know, that my outlook on life was perfection. She'd say "That Mary Kate! She was born happy!" (I think she stole that from my Momma..but who's counting?:)

Puddie taught me so many things. Like, drinking was called "A swallow". Example- "Let me have just a swallow of that water!" She taught me how to tie my shoes. How to jump rope. How to skip. How to dive. How to make an angel food cake. And she didn't bat an eye lash when I told her I felt like it was a good idea to add gum balls to it. She measured out a cup, and mixed them right in.
I grew up pretty positive that, that back room at their house was called "The Doo-Witchy". Turns out it was the pool room...But doo-witchy sounds better in my opinion.

My love of swimming comes from Puddie. I'd never met anyone in this whole world who loved to swim like Puddie did. I learned early on, that peace could be found swimming laps. Even to this day, I feel myself calm down the instant my body is in water. As soon as my head goes under, I hear Puddie yelling "Kick! Kick! Kick!!! Kick!!!"
You'd think she would have grown tired of telling us kids to push harder. To keep our head straight. To kick just a little stronger. Just a little faster.
But she never did.
I can't help but laugh when I'm in our pool here in Florida with my Baby Ben. He kicks. He giggles. He slaps the water. He laughs hysterically. He tries to jump out of my arms into the water. But I hold on tight. Because he's just not ready.

Puddie taught me, that even in the worst times, to focus on keeping my head above water. To tread water when I'm out in the deep end. And to just keep kicking.
So these days, when I'm at the end of my rope and all the chips are down. I close my eyes. And I hear "Kick kick kick kick kick!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dancing in The Minefield

Chris and I constantly find ourselves in a state of hilarity. Our entire marriage (all year and a half of it!) has been filled with one funny adventure..after another. I use the words " funny adventure" because the actual phrase I really want to use would get my mouth washed out with soap :)

I'm often reminded of the not so classy saying "If the trailer's rockin..don't come-a-knockin!" Well, we live in an apartment...But you get the gist. The "trailer is rockin" due to craziness of Anyway.....
*Awkward pause inserted here*

I won't bore you with the laundry list of everything that is happening in our lives right now..But here are some highlights:

Ben is walkin. Talkin. Eatin' peanut butter sandwiches, and has figured out how to unbuckle his carseat. It's hilarious. I love it. I want it to stop. He can't grow up this fast!

We were going to buy a didn't work out. I didn't realize it was going to be such an emotional experience. I've been eating A LOT of ice cream to keep the emotions/anger at the housing market at bay :)

We will be moving again this Summer. Don't worry, we'll still be in Maitland! Just can't stay in our apartment. It's been rented by someone else.

Chris's sweet, sweet Grandmother has been in and out of the hospital with health problems. Please keep her in your prayers. My brother in law and sister are doing wonderful and feel very blessed that my brother in law is safe and sound.

In honor of the craziness, and Chris being a bomb guy, I'd like to share A song that always leaves me with a smile, by Andrew Peterson.

Dancing in The Minefields

I was nineteen, you were twenty-one
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway

We bought our rings for forty each
From a pawn shop down the road
We made our vows and took the leap
Now fifteen years ago

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storm
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

"I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin

'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love's chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me

'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear
So I'll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear

'Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things I learned from Mimsey

I think as a teenager and even college student, we are so quick to disregard most everything our Mothers tell us. Don't get your belly button pierced. It's trashy. I did. And it did look trashy on me. Make your bed. It makes the whole room look better. I didn't, and my room was always messy. Buy clothing that is made well, and it will last you for years. I didn't, and it didn't last. Do not drink too much beer, you'll gain weight. I did, and yes I gained weight. Yet as a newly wed, and then later, a Mother myself, I find myself quick to glean as much wisdom from my own Mother, as often as possible. I call her for EVERYTHING. Example "Baby Ben fell in the toy box, do you think he will survive?!!"

I also hear her voice in my head every hour of hour day. Much like I hear my grandmother Puddie saying "kick kick kick!" (That's a whole other blog post!!)

I could fill up an entire book of incredible yet simple things my Momma (Mimsey to Baby Ben) has taught me through her words and examples, but here are some highlights:

If you don't splurge on anything else, splurge on: Nice sheets, and nice towels. And get them monogrammed.

Do the dishes before bed, you will feel so much better when you wake up to a clean kitchen.

If you don't give anything else, give GRACE. Give lots of it.

Even if you can't cook or don't have time, you can make a quiche. (Ironically my Mother-in-law feels the same way, which makes me love her even more)

Never underestimate the power of two things: Knowing how to spell, and having nice handwriting.

When in doubt, button that extra button on your shirt! It's never okay for your bra to show. EVER.

Get you pants hemmed, it's worth the cost.

Buy stationary. And use it! A handwritten note is so much more powerful than an email.

Put on your top bed sheet inside out, that way when you fold it over, the nice side is up.

Buy white towels and white sheets. They are easy to wash.

Brewing a pot of coffee in the afternoon with a side of shortbread, makes any day just a little bit sweeter.

You can never have too many kitchen towels.

A walk or a swim will always put you in a better mood.

Sometimes, you just need a hamburger and a coke with crushed ice.

Blueberry muffins are perfect. Perfect for breakfast, perfect for a snack, and even more perfect toasted with butter.

Bake with whole wheat flour, take your vitamins, and eat organic. My Mom fed us organic before it was cool.

Spend the money on getting a good pedicure. It will last longer.

And finally, the sweetest lesson of all:

Say I love you as often as you can. And twice before you hang up the phone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pure Bliss!

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. Job 42:12a.
It seems this verse is always on my heart these days. I was reminded of it this past weekend, when Chris surprised me with a weekend vacation for Mother's Day to St. Augustine.

I'm pretty sure this is what pure bliss looks like.

I'm also reminded of that verse when Baby Ben first wakes up in the morning, wraps his little chubby arms around me (with Baby Lamb and blanket wedged between us) and coos "Ma Ma Ma Ma"

It's not to say I don't have my moments (when Ben is screaming, emptying out every single pot in the kitchen, and Chris is oblivious reading a book in his man chair) when I don't want a break every now and then..But I truly believe having lost someone precious to me, early on in my life, has made me even more aware of the sweet, sweet blessings (that I do not deserve) the Lord has bestowed upon me now.

In other news, I'm pretty sure I spent a good two weeks thinking I was 22, instead of 23. I was shocked when Chris finally sat me down, did the math, and informed me, that YES I am 23 and not 22. Oh well. I guess I have until October to get used to the idea.

P.S. Yes, I'm wearing pants in this picture...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Healing Goes Both Ways

Happy Easter sweet friends!
In honor of the grief and joy we share in celebrating Easter, I wanted to share an article that came out in my hometown paper about my Momma and her sweet friend Lisa, and their love for horses.

This brought back so many precious memories of days spent in the hot Mississippi sun riding horses during my growing up years. Everyone who grew up with me knows, I'm actually not a big horse person. I prefer Louboutin to Carhartt, but they also never miss a chance to tell the story of me chasing down that horse up and down the highway, and actually catching her.
Luckily, my Momma prefers wading in the mud in her boots to cocktail parties, and this is her sweet, sweet story.

Healing goes both ways

Community Editor
Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011 9:33 AM CDT
LAKE CORMORANT — Blind in one eye and rescued from a life confined to being tied to a tree and left to eat his own waste, Feather, a Tennessee Walking Horse, gently nudges his new owner Lisa Sparks.

"He was 200 pounds underweight," Sparks said as a group of home-schoolers listened intently. "He has made a remarkable recovery."

Sparks, who rescues neglected or abandoned horses, said when she found out about Feather, who had been tied to a tree on a farm in the lower Mississippi Delta, she took a shotgun and a halter.

"We came prepared to put him down or bring him home," Sparks said matter-of-factly.

The horse's original owner, whom Sparks did not name, had been paying family members to take care of the horse but they simply pocketed the money instead.

"By the grace of God he survived the winter without food," Sparks said. "Horses like this, sometimes they eat their own manure."

Sparks, who has been riding horses for 20 years, discovered she needed to find out how to communicate with horses like Feather.

She became a student of horse whisperer Dennis Reis, a California rancher, who teaches the fine art of horse whispering to people like Sparks.

"I learned that I needed to understand more about horse communication," Sparks said as she taught a group of home schoolers how to create a protective "bubble" between them and the horses.

"They get to work with the horses in a natural setting, not just a stable," Sparks said.

Heidi Zumbehl, 11, Anna Grisham, 12, Hannah Sahnger and Rebekah Grisham are her willing pupils.

Sparks is assisted on this day by her longtime friend Missy Flanagan of Hernando.

The two women who share a love of horses, also share a legacy of grief.

Sparks lost her daughter Eve, 26, to cancer two and a half years ago. Flanagan lost her 16-year-old son Ben to a heart condition six years ago.

Rescuing abused animals and helping teach home schoolers about horsemanship has allowed the two women to channel their grief into a positive, almost therapeutic ministry.

"The Lord led me back here through our friendship, our love of horses and children, and our grieving hearts," Flanagan said as she waded through ankle-deep mud to a pasture where more than 14 rescued horses frolicked and roamed.

"Every horse out here has a story," said Flanagan. "Just like people. As a grieving mother I've learned you have to work through the pain. The horses are learning to work through the pain of what they have experienced."

Flanagan's husband Jim surprised her with a horse of her own this past Christmas. She named her "Beauty From the Ashes."

The name is taken from Isaiah 61:3: "He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted … to comfort all who mourn and console those who grieve and give them beauty for ashes."

The black Mustang lived on a farm in rural Marshall County.

"The owners didn't know it at the time but it had toxic waste on it and some of the other animals died," Flanagan said. "We have Beauty and there have been at least three others which came from that situation."

Like Sparks, Flanagan grew to have a love of horses.

All four of her children took part in learning how to handle and ride horses at Sparks' farm.

"Horses were my true love but I always struggled with communication," Flanagan said. "Lisa has blessed our generation of home schoolers and now she is helping another generation. It's been a blessing beyond measure."

Sparks spoke of her own grief.

"The grief becomes a crater in your heart," Sparks said. "You have a need to give because so much has been taken away."

Sparks, Flanagan and the group of teens not only learn how to train horses in the paddock area behind Sparks home but they have been given free reign of an adjoining 85 acres owned by Albert Gartrell.

Gartrell, too, lost a child years ago and has donated free use of the land to Sparks so the horses have a chance to roam and graze.

Sparks began gentling horses and learning how to communicate with them when her eight-year-old niece received a two-year-old horse with no instructions as to how to train or care for it.

Even though some of the horses are wild and unbroken and not yet gentled, the home school students are learning how to tame them.

"We teach these kids how to recognize the signs and we stress safety," Flanagan said. "It's not really anything mystical about what she does. It's all based on body language. Horses use body language to communicate and so do people."

Rebekah, her long hair tucked underneath a black Stetson, said she has bonded with the animals.

"We learn from them and they learn from us," she said.

Robert Lee Long: or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Messy life

I cannot believe March has come..and gone.
Through the years March has become, the most precious yet bittersweet month of the year for me, and all my loved ones.On March 14th 2010, Chris and I welcomed into the world our beautiful son, James Bennett Merrifield (Baby Ben!). He was 4lbs and 17inches long. And every bit as wild and his Momma. He even has my crazy hair, and monkey toes. (Never mind the fact that everything else about him is the spitting image of my incredible husband)

March 15 is my brother Ben's Birthday, and March 17th is the anniversary of Ben's death.
There is such a stark difference in the emotions I felt this year in celebrating Baby's 1st Birthday, and the 6th Anniversary of Big Ben's death, than I've felt the previous years since Ben's homecoming. This year I felt an overwhelming since of peace. Never underestimate the knowledge of total and complete peace in Christ providential will for your life. Take it from someone who spent many years on the journey of grief and sadness. The years leading up to Baby Ben's birth were tough years. But the blessings that brought Chris and I both to the place where we rest now, at the foot of the cross, can never be measured. Someone very sweet and dear once told me grief is "just messy". And Messy is the perfect way to describe our life. Messy...yet Wonderful. And filled shining examples of Christ love. But still messy!

Speaking of messy, Baby Ben is the epitome of all things messy. He doesn't just like to hold onto the drawer of my chest of drawers, he likes to open it up, and pull out every single shirt I own. I think he's trying to tell me it's time to organize my clothing. He also thinks it's a great idea to throw his craisins and cheerios across the apartment when he finds himself feeling total bliss. This emotion is normally brought about by a full tummy and Mommy giving him teaspoons to play with. He is a child after my own heart. Did I mention he's newest hobby is putting almond butter in his hair? :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mopping and GLEE

The other night I took it upon myself to mop the floor. Normally I only do this under great duress, but before putting Baby Ben to but that night, I took one look at his knees and tummy (covered in dirt!!!) and realized it was about time to mop. Since Chris was at work, and not there to entertain me, I flipped through the tv channels to find something to watch while mopping. I found a GLEE episode. I've never seen an episode of it (I've been a BIT busy people!) so I thought I'd give it a try.
I didn't realize it until both actions of mopping and watching the episode were complete, but mopping and GLEE have to be my two LEAST favorite things. ever. Besides black eyed peas. No not the group, the food. They gross me out. I should probably get southern points taken away for not liking them, but I really do hate them. And GLEE. and Mopping.
However, I will say, mopping was bit more enjoyable than usual this time around, due to using Method brand mopping liquid. that stuff smells delicious! Nothing however, helped GLEE be any more enjoyable.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Smurfs and Birthdays!

I cringed as I signed into the blog tonight, because yet again, I've been negligent in updating it. I'll blame it on my ADHD, which incidentally has being rearing it's h
yper head quite frequently!

Since it's been (yet again!) a couple months since an update, I'll hit all the high points on what's been going on in the Merrifield household. Then hopefully I'll be able to delve into each issue with hilarity sooner rather than later :)

Mimsey, Daddy Jim, and Uncle Robin joined us for Thanksgiving
this year! It was the first Thanksgiving we've spent as a family and it was filled with blessings and sweet memories. (I'm sure I've spent a few thanksgiving with Chris, but since he was married to someone else back then, that doesn't really count. I'm so bad!)

We flew to COLD cold cold cold (etc) Colorado to spend an incredible Christmas with Chris's family. Ok, it really wasn't that cold, I'm just spoiled. There is a reason I've lived my entire life in the south. I'm a fan of shorts, not puffer jackets. Although, precious Baby Ben looked pretty cute in a red puffer jacket his Meme had ready for him!

I enjoyed spending time with my sweet in-laws, and being called "Aunt Mary Kathryn" for the first time by my newly acquired nephews. Baby Ben also felt the need to commemorate the trip by cutting his first TWO teeth. I'm not sure who was in the most pain, Baby and his sore gums, or Mommy and the Daddy-man with sleep deprivation. We'll call it a tie.

January flew by, but was extra special because Mimsey came to visit. Baby B rewarded her for visiting by crawling for the first time while at New Smyrna Beach.

I'm amazed every day by how blessed our little family is by all the support and prayers we've received from our parents. The extra blessing is that my Momma makes the effort to come and see us nearly every six weeks. It never fails, right when Chris and I are exhausted, and need a break, Mimsey comes into town and scoops up our little snuggle Benny and gives us time to relax and catch up on anything we've been needing to do.

February is suddenly here, and we didn't even notice. My favorite thing about the month of February, is Chris's birthday on Feb.2. We celebrated earlier in late January with a dinner and a movie date. But for his actual birthday weekend, we enjoyed red velvet Star Wars cupcakes and a day at the beach. Welcome to 34 Bunny!! (Just a reminder, I'm 23. That means you're still ELEVEN years older than me. Just wanted to remind you :)
I'm always amazed when I look back at how different life was two years ago, and Chris's birthday this year served as a reminder of how far we've come as a couple, and as a family.
I adore Chris more and more each day we spend together. He's such an incredible husband, father, and best friend.

A couple things have happened in the past week, that I feel are worth mentioning.

First, last week, I took my laundry issues to a "whole nother level". I washed Chris's uniform pants with a blue pen on accident. It seems like such a small issue. Or rather, quite laughable. which is what I was doing when he pulled them out. I also think I made reference to "Poppa Smurf".
Looking back now, neither laughing, or referencing the smurfs helped the situation get any less frustrating for Chris, but we made it through it, and we laugh about it now. Well, I laugh about it, Chris still gets nervous whenever I do laundry.

Second, Baby Ben is now not just crawling, he is pulling up, and hanging onto (for dear life I might add) every chair, couch, bed, etc he can get to. He's also started to figure out he can reach for other things to "Walk along side" everything to stay elevated. I cannot believe in less than a month and a half, he will be one year old! Our sweet precious little preemie baby has come such a long way.
Well, that's all for now folks! Hopefully I'll be back here soon to update everyone on Merrifield craziness