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A changed heart is a good heart.

I truly had no idea what I was in for. The closer the day of my flight to Uganda came the greater my concern for being emotionally and spiritually prepared for the journey I became. My concern was valid to say the least. On the flip side, I don’t believe one is ever fully prepared for what happens when you step off that plane and begin the process.

The first night in our hotel in Mbarara, I felt guilty for how nice it was.  Our 5 hour bus ride from Entebbe proved to be gut wrenching. The closer we got to Mbarara the more devastation I saw. The darker the sky grew the more broken my heart became. I saw small children without clothing simply playing with rocks because that was all they had. A small child walking in the dark carrying pails of water to his family will shake you to your core. There was a very distinct moment when I realized those commercials I had seen on the TV for years were so real. They are not over dramatized.

As they saw our bus approach they stopped everything. I could see their smiles for miles. They are so beautiful and happy yet likely don’t know when or how their bellies will be full again. I’m already searching for ways I can truly help this community.

On our first full day, we had the privilege to attend a church service unlike anything I’ve experienced. I’ve never felt the Holy Spirit as present as it was in that moment. The joy expressed to us, as total strangers, was overwhelming and welcomed. I wish the people in that church understood how much they showed us during such a short amount of time. I’m typically not excited about talking in front of large unfamiliar groups but I knew I had to give them my all as I was introduced. I had thought about what I wished to share. I thought about my testimony and ran through it over and over in my mind. I had every intention of sharing my story but I just couldn’t. I was so overcome with emotion when it was my turn I could barely get through a quick personal introduction without my voice quivering and fighting back the tears. During the service, a woman accepted Jesus as her savior. What a powerful moment to witness! I later saw her at a school we toured and I approached her. My intent was to pray for her but she seemed to be trying to avoid me but I was committed to acknowledging her in that moment. The closer I came to her I realized she has been through things I can’t imagine. She wore sunglasses to hide her missing left eye and terribly burned skin. I hugged her and simply told her how blessed our team was to witness her coming to Jesus today during the service. I saw a hint of a smile and she lowered her head and walked on.

A little girl named Rachel followed me from the church to the school that day. This is the first of many times I connected with a small child during our trip. She wore a pink knee length dress and a smile that would capture any heart. Her worn dress was only able to zip about half way up because of a broken zipper. Her face was dirty and her smile was radiant. She came to hug me at any opportunity over the next several hours. At this particular school, I saw the dormitory that the girls used to sleep in before moving to the newer school. They had bunk beds in a room far too small to house that many children. The swings out back looked rusted and were made out of a two by four. I felt thankful my tetanus shot was up to date. The children still flocked to them and looked joyful at the chance to experience what little fun the swings could provide them.

For anyone who knows me, you may recall how much I love pygmy goats. Uganda is full of goats. They are literally everywhere just like dogs are here. I ventured off in hopes to just pet a goat and recharge my emotional battery when I stumbled upon a young man named Douglas. I was quiet at first as I was attempting to process that I was even in Africa yet alone part of the recent church service and now walking through this place that unfortunately resembled a school.

Douglas is 17 and is part of the choir. At age 2 his mother abandoned him by running away. He couldn’t be cared for by his father because he was a drug lord. His grandmother cared for him until her death due to old age. (The average life expectancy is about 50 years old.) He explained his extended family would not care for him because he was simply “another mouth to feed” and he was sick at the time. He was orphaned until Parental Care took him in 4 years ago. He spent years living on the streets and searching for food in trash cans. I wish this story were rare but I quickly realized how many children can retell this story only inserting their own name.

It began to rain and we all took cover in a school house. I can’t tell you the joy my heart had as children flocked to me. Some of them wanted to play with my hair. Some of them just stared and smiled. Most of them wanted physical affection which I was more than happy to supply.

One of the most powerful moments of the trip was visiting a boys home. Uganda is filled with hearts bigger than the state of Texas but Dennis is quite the soul. He provides shelter for more than 50 children. I don’t know a time in my life where I was more broken and humbled. I recall standing in a circle holding hands and praying with about 50 people. At the end of the prayer I opened my eyes just in time to see a single tear fall from my eye and hit the dirt. This was such a raw, authentic and telling moment for me. I remember catching eyes with a woman on our trip just as this happened. I do believe we were sharing the same broken feeling. I could feel her heartache from a distance and I had just met her. I just looked down and had to keep wiping my eyes in attempt to get it together. This home is filled with young men who have been rejected, put down, and broken until they have no hope.

I’ve been home for almost two weeks. I was concerned the stories would sit on a shelf and my overwhelming need to go back would fade. But it hasn’t. I owe my service to their community for what they have provided to me. My heart is changed. Those are four very powerful words.

My heart is changed.

Dear Landon

Dear Landon,

This morning you woke up likely not any taller than when you fell asleep last night. This didn’t stop me from humoring you when you stood as tall as you could next to the wooden ruler that adorns the wall in the hallway. It did however cause me to pause and I thank you for that. I also thank you for the last eight years and for every single day ahead of us.

I love the tradition of writing you a letter every year for your birthday. They are stored neatly inside of your time capsule along with other “mom-like” mementos I’ve saved from that year of your life. We have certainly had a year to remember. We’ve had so many incredible moments and we’ve weathered a storm that you certainly have not deserved. From day one, I knew I was getting paid back for being such a strong willed child but how that trait has come to serve us both well.

I think many of us as parents think about the epic list of things we do for our children. And of course there are times I’m tired of picking up after you and simply don’t understand how jelly ended up on the bottom of your night stand. However, this time I’m in such awe of what you have done for me this year. You may be small but the heart and grace you possess is truly inspiring. Yes, you at just eight years old have inspired me countless times.

The major event that rocked us this year was when your stepdad left us. I’m finally at a point where I know it was for the best and you deserve so much more than what that situation offered you. I dreaded having to tell you our lives were being turned upside down. I expected you to cry and be hurt but what I wasn’t prepared for was what you said to me.  I think it’s important that I record how you reacted in that moment because it speaks to the heart you have and how caring of a soul you truly are. When I delivered the news, you looked stunned and your eyes filled with tears. You sat in front of me with your legs crossed and your head fell into your lap like you had just folded in half. I couldn’t hear your cries because you simply couldn’t get anything out. I held you apologizing for our situation. I reassured you that your feelings were okay. I rocked you and told you I loved you more than anything followed by another round of tear filled apologies. At that moment, you stiffened your upper lip and grabbed my hands. You looked me dead in my eyes and said, “Mommy, stop apologizing to me. You should not be sorry. You don’t want this. He broke his promise, you didn’t. You will find a good man.” And you hugged me. That’s all that it took for me to turn a corner and have the perspective we needed to find our bright spot again.

This years birthday letter is much different than in previous years. However, I don’t want to lose out on all the moments of you just being a silly seven year old boy. You say the cutest and silliest things. We love telling each other the jokes on the popsicle sticks. I love every night that you beg me to sing the sunshine song. I love waking up on the nights you’ve crawled into my bed just because you wanted to cuddle. I’m savoring every one of those moments because before too long, you won’t think I’m this cool. Just last night you stepped out of line and I jokingly said I’d “give you away or just sell you.” You laughed and asked how much I’d get for you. I responded by saying you were so special maybe a trillion dollars. In true Landon fashion, you said I should sell you for $2 because $2 bills are so rare as you smirked.

You often rush through your homework because you’re ready to play. You tend to your friends that fall and scrape their knee. You love everything Starwars. You love watching documentaries about marine life and dinosaurs. We love going to Goldrush Cafe on Skillman for our weekly breakfast date before school. You love finding details that I’m wrong about and calling me out. You love waking up early on Saturday morning and sneaking gummy packages into your room thinking I wont actually find those wrappers. You have little interest in organized sports but love swimming, math, and all things science related. You have a heart for Jesus that is so incredibly beautiful.

Landon,  I hope you always know how truly special you are. Not only to me but to everyone around you. Your laugh is contagious. Your witt is entertaining. And your spirit is 100% boy. I will always love sharing chicken nuggets with you and a fort is as good of a place to sleep as any.

Love,

“Your little mommy”

I’m Right Where I’m Supposed To Be

Someone recently shared a song that embodied everything I was needing in that moment. The title of the song itself spoke to me. I’ve been feeling very comfortable in my own skin and where I am in life. I’ve had an increasing sense of self awareness. I’ve realized that I am in fact exactly where I’m supposed to be. That’s a feeling you can’t put a price tag on and it has come only after a series of waves through very rocky waters.

Even considering my level of comfort in my simple yet beautiful life, I know something is missing. I have no idea when the last piece to the puzzle will come together. I find the process to be beautiful yet often uncomfortable.

For the first time in my life, I am truly being open about my knack for failing forward. I’m finding that it’s the only way for me to save my sanity and remain in control of my feelings. I’m not hiding behind anything anymore. It’s been so encouraging to read older posts and see how far I’ve come. I can’t even begin to thank those close to me for loving me through my failures and celebrating my successes. 

I’ve danced around writing about what I’ve been through. I’ve told half truths, omitted details, and been vague. My intent has never been to mislead people or hurt someone. It has been the result of shame and embarrassment. And that stops today. 

I’ve been married twice. I married my son’s father at a young age and that likely doesn’t need much explanation. I waited many years to get remarried. I thought I was the luckiest girl alive to have found him. I thought I had everything. I can assure you, the smile on my face was absolutely real and full of love and hope. 

I failed. We failed. He left on a Tuesday. I got a text message saying, “I won’t be here when you get home.” My thought was he had an appointment. After clarifying, I immediately bolted from my office in tears heading straight to my house. As the color left my skin, I absorbed the reality of what was happening. It felt like every dream I had with him was being thrown with haste into those suitcases. I begged. I cried. I fell apart. I watched him back out of the drive way. I watched the gate close. And that was it. Three hours later I walked to the school to pick up my son. I still wonder how well I hid my pain from him. 

It took me weeks to share my failure with my mom and best friend. I remember sitting in my living room with my best friend and saying my biggest fear was not making it out of it and still being a good person. I’ve had pain in my life but this was larger than life. 

I’m really sharing this story with the hope it will help even one person pull through a really dark time. I can honestly say that I’ve had a more beautiful life since my divorce. I’ve been shown more grace than I thought possible. I’m so humbled and thankful for every person in my life. I’ve realized how strong I am and I feel proud of that. 

I spent days crying in the bathtub for hours. I felt humiliated, devastated, angry, confused, and scared. I finally decided I wouldn’t let someone cheat my son and me of the beautiful life we deserved. I threw myself into anything and everything positive I could get my hands on. I took a volunteer position with the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce as Vice President of Philanthropy. I began volunteering in our city and that quickly put my life into perspective. As a result I’ve found a space that is comfortable and beautiful with love. 

I love thinking about something that is making me happy right now and tracing the steps backwards to find how I got to that place. I can honestly say that everything I love about my life right now happened because of something that felt devastating in the moment. There is always light at the end of the tunnel even if it takes a minute to find it. Reaching out for help is courageous. 

Is Starbucks Profiting From Our Sleep Deprivation?

I’ve been feeling pretty run down lately. My sleep habits have been pathetic. One factor is that my car was recently broken into and all of my Adderall was stolen. My doctor won’t prescribe anymore to me regardless of waving a police report in his face. Needless to say, as I sit here I’m prying my eyes open. The last few weeks I’ve found myself just struggling to even write a to-do list much less feel accomplished at the end of the day. Is this the real version of myself?

As a mother, I’ve realized how much I do not want my own child to begin taking Adderall at any point. I’m running a sleep company, I should know better than to fall victim to the dependency of Adderall. I began researching how to make it through the struggle of being cut off cold turkey from Adderall. Nothing has been helpful and I’m convinced Starbucks is preparing to offer me a job considering how often they see me. I stumbled upon an article published by Central Dentist who cites an article from The John Hopkins News-Letter  discussing children and mothers sharing sleep patterns. This certainly made my eyes finally open!

I could relate to so much of this article! I’m a mother to a seven year old boy and I’m submerged in all things sleep related on a daily basis. The study involved 200 healthy children age seven to 12 and measured their sleep patterns for one night using a home sleep test device. What stood out to me was when a mother reported sleep issues, her child would get less sleep, spend less time in deep sleep, and also go to sleep and wake up at a later time.

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a lack of sleep can contribute to errors in judgement or sudden changes in mood, as well as a child’s ability to retain and learn information.

Sleep is so crucial to our bodies repairing properly, it affects our mental health, and gravely affects our quality of life. This is amplified in children as their bodies rapidly grow and as they are constantly soaking up life around them. Their growth and development is directly affected by the amount and quality of sleep they are getting consistently. I’m certainly adding “sleep habits” to the epic list of things I hope to instill in my own son.

To learn more about how you can ensure you and your children are getting your best nights sleep, check out www.CentralDentist.com!

 

Thoughtful Thursday: A Note to Peggy Sue

Dear Peggy Sue,

You’re the only grandmother I’ve ever really known. As I reflect on this, I realize it’s probably for the best. No one else could ever come close to you. It makes my day when someone says I look like you or favor your stubbornness. I regret not telling you how it’s been obvious to me from a very early age that you’ve always been the glue to our entire family.

Do you know how beautiful you are? You’re smart, brave, stubborn, classy, independent, and creative. I’ve watched you my entire life as you managed to keep your marriage together and make it look so easy. But then again, how much easier could it have been for Papa? He got to marry you! As wonderful and sweet as Floyd Leon was, he definitely hit the jackpot… and he knew it. 

Thank you for all that you sacrificed to make sure my brother and I got our annual summer trips to Silver Dollar City. It was so sweet and nostalgic when I had the opportunity to take my own son. I feel like that trip as an adult was even better for me thanks to you. 

Thank you for always making Christmas a winter wonderland regardless if there was snow on the ground. Christmas was always so much more than the gifts. You were the creator behind the humble house packed with love, silliness, and incredible food. 

I remember as a young girl sneaking away to your bedroom to spray your perfume. You always wore the most incredible scents. I learned to sew via YouTube videos as an adult hoping you’d be proud of me for mastering a dying art of my generation. It’s hard to believe that a plate adorned with tiny ducks wearing blue bonnets has the power to flood my mind with the most amazing memories.

As a mother myself, I often wonder if I’ve done enough. I can only imagine how amplified this feeling may be as a great grandmother. I hope you take a moment today to reflect on how very great you are!

Peggy Sue, I love you. You are beautiful.

Finding Home Base

I’ve done it again. The first step is admission, right? I’ve overcommitted myself in many aspects of my life. While my intentions are well it’s left me feeling like I’ve half assed many things I truly care about. That’s when guilt sets in. 

How did I let this happen again? Early 2017 was by far my most hectic and emotionally draining time period in years. I’ve previously mentioned how I mindfully chose to throw myself into everything positive I could get my hands on. It was very intentional with the purpose to avoid some devastating events to not swallow me whole thus affecting both my life and my son’s. Mission accomplished! I can’t even count the number of beautiful people that have walked into my life. I can not recall ever feeling more proud and humbled at the same time. My friends, both old and new, have picked me up when I needed it and celebrated my successes this year. Personally and professionally this year I have had lows that would make you shake your head and highs that would make even a stranger proud. So what’s next? 


I honestly feel like I’m exiting that “fight or flight” phase in my life. I’ve spent months just grinning and bearing it, faking it until I made it. Well, I’ve made it through and now I’m exhausted. I’m happy but tired. At least I’m not sick and tired of being sick and tired, right?

I’ve spent a lot of time just regrouping and evaluating things in my mind. I have intentionally been on a small hiatus regarding my blog. I needed a minute to not dissect everything I was going through. I needed to just live for a minute and then see where that left me. 

I know how and why I overcommitted myself. It was to keep my mind and heart busy. I was constantly surrounding myself with volunteer work and drowning myself in my “be humble, be grateful” mantra. I have no intention of stopping either of these things. I do have intentions to be balanced though. 

The million dollar question is what matters the most to me? That’s easy. My son. I’ll be room mom again this year. I’ll make copious amounts of videos with cheesy sayings scattered throughout while not giving a crap if anyone else actually watches them. I’ll spend my nights striving to be that Pinterest mom crafting the most adorable party favors with my hot glue gun loaded as I swim in a sea of craft ribbon. And yes, I could have easily just bought the damn favors for a reasonable price on Etsy. But that won’t satisfy me nearly as much.

The point is that balancing life is difficult enough for all of us. I like to think we all manage the best way we know how and it’s okay if we have some missteps. Admitting it and being introspective about how it happened and how we can get back on track is the real success. I believe the first step is asking yourself two simple questions. What or who is most important to you? What do you identify yourself as? When I did this I instantly felt like a ton of bricks were lifted off my shoulders. My answers to those questions were, “Landon” and “a mom”. While I firmly believe I have an identity completely separate from being a mom, I know that will always be my home base. 

Thoughtful Thursday: 26 Days

It’s been 26 days.

photo226 days since I closed my front door and fell apart because I wouldn’t see the better part of myself for 30 days. I’ve almost made it. Only 3 more days to go! I’ll be back to complaining because he didn’t really brush his teeth and nagging him to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I can’t wait for him to ask me to read just one more story or have that stinky boy smell back in my house. I have a feeling it’ll smell a little sweeter.

As I reflect on what I’ve done with myself this month, I realize how busy I’ve purposely made myself. If you judge my life during the month of July solely by my social media you will be deceived. I know I used a lot of my free time for good. I volunteered, worked towards goals personally and professionally, had a lot of meetings, and spent more time with friends than I probably will the rest of the year combined. My social media profiles look like I’ve had the time of my life in July! Another reason why many people call it “Fakebook.”

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Don’t get me wrong, my friends are amazing. I’m so grateful! I have a lot of really amazing things happening in my life right now. But there hasn’t been a second go by that I didn’t know how long he’s been gone and how many days until he comes home.I’ve had to stay busier than ever to keep myself from being so sad that I bury my face in tacos and ice cream. (Not that there’s a single thing wrong with that!) I’ve had to keep his bedroom door shut. I waited until this past weekend to do all of his laundry. I wonder if I will ever get used to this?
If I hear one more parent tell me, “Oh that sounds amazing! How nice to have a break!” I will scream. You have no idea. It’s not amazing to not know if your child is okay. It’s awful. It’s pretty helpless and exhausting to go a month without a hug from your little. This isn’t a situation where they are off to camp for a week.
I can’t wait to get back to eating popsicles and building pillow forts. Perhaps the silver lining of my lonely July is that I have a reminder every year that I’m truly so fortunate to have a child as magical as mine.


Don’t forget to submit your thoughts to info@adventureswithalley.com 
to be featured on Thoughtful Thursday!
-XOXO

Thoughtful Thursday 

“Learn to be thankful for what you have while pursuing what you want.”

2017 has been a year full of change. I set out with the goal to be humble and grateful regardless of the many changes I have been adjusting to. Without a doubt, this year I have been more aware of the need to be vocal to those I appreciate. Overall, I’ve made a conscious effort to be grateful for the daily things that make life so great. 

Don’t forget to tell people how much you appreciate them. It takes just a moment but lift their spirits in a way you didn’t know they needed.


Don’t forget to submit your thoughts to be featured on Thoughtful Thursday!

Thoughtful Thursday: Guest Blogger- Shelby Hill

Our guest blogger this week, Shelby Hill, shares a story that would make any parent proud. As parents we often lose sleep hoping our children grow to become adults with integrity and generous hearts. Shelby is one parent who can rest easy tonight. Her story is authentic and is an incredible example of the mother I know her to be.

“Working in Dallas has unknowingly hardened me to the many homeless people living on the streets. As usual, it took the love and kindness of a child to reopen my eyes. This time it was my very own child.

I’m the proud mom of two amazing children. My son, Brock, is 14 and sweet Katie is 10. Recently the three of us spent an extended weekend in San Antonio and Austin to support Brock in a baseball tournament. Although our time in San Antonio was short, was it ever so sweet! What free time we had was spent at The River Walk, dining, and The Alamo. Brock and Katie were itching to spend the money my parents had sent them to “buy anything they wanted!” 

Walking towards the Alamo there are carriage rides, ice cream trucks line the streets, and copious amounts of candy and games. Their eyes lit up. I encouraged them to hang on to their money and “don’t spend it all in one place!” Brock didn’t listen. 

As we approached the Alamo, Brock noticed a man who was dirty and his clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed for weeks. The three of us couldn’t help but notice him digging food out of a trash can. The kids whispered to me, “Is he homeless?” My confirmation provoked an even more concerned tone as they asked, “Mama, is he going to eat that food out of the trash can?” Again, the answer was yes. A couple of steps later Brock stopped me and said, “Mama, wait just a minute.” Before I could question him, his plan was in action. As soon as I realized what he was doing I told my daughter to come look at a monument to give Brock a moment. I was overcome with emotion and so proud of my son. I stood in front of The Alamo with tears streaming down my face. I pulled myself together enough to let him know how proud I was to be his mom! I asked him what he did, although I knew what I had witnessed. He said, “Nana gave me this money to do what I wanted with it. I wanted to give it to him. He looks like he needs it more than I do.” I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was.

I’m blessed that my children are kind, generous, loving and grateful. I will never forget the time my child reminded me that sometimes people just need a little help. ”

Want your thoughts to be featured on a future Thursday? Email your story to info@adventureswithalley.com

Thoughtful Thursday

 Have you ever considered the way your children view your commitment to your community? I do now more than ever. Let’s be honest, kids can be very egocentric developmentally. This isn’t a product of poor parenting or being spoiled. It’s life. 
I’m feeling a bigger sense of responsibility the more involved I become in community service projects. I’m not sure if it’s coming from volunteering just being in my life all of the time or my true self awareness to the world around me. Would the feeling go away if I stopped leading projects to better our community? The truth is that I don’t know.