dogs, humor, motherhood

Love is All Around

I love Love.

I really, really do.

I love it so much in fact (Star Wars spoiler alert), I still held out hope Kylo Ren and Rey would get married at the end of the Rise of Skywalker.

#ReyloEverAfter

Love shows up in all forms.  That’s what makes it so incredibly awesome.  Snuggling with a favorite pet, having lunch with a best friend, even sunshine breaking through the clouds on a rainy day all feel like love to me.

Whether you love Love or not, you may agree there is value in expressing how we feel to those we care about.  I make it a point, and happily so, to tell my boys how much I love them on a regular basis.  Being that they are teenagers, as you might imagine, this goes over like gangbusters.

“Full Speed, Full Speed, Full Speed!” I said.  I love to say his name several times in a row because it bothers him.  This is how I know he will pay attention to what I have to say next because, really mom … stop.  Just. Stop.

“Full Speed, Full Speed, Full Speed!  I love you so much!  I really do!  I love everything about you.”

I held my breath in anticipation for what was sure to be an articulate and wondrous response:

“Okay?”

Well, not exactly the enthusiasm I was looking for so I move on to my next target son.

“T.Puzzle!  I love you so much!  You know what I love the most about you?

(wait for it … )

Everything!”

T.Puzzle heard me, took a moment to process and, as he backed slowly out of the room said, “Well that just warms my heart.”

Yep!  That’s it.  That’s all I get.

I am so ready for Google translation to figure out dogspeak.

I know Max wouldn’t let me down.

#TrueLove

#FurEver

#IAlsoLovePuns

#MadDogIsAHottie

#HappyValentinesDay

#YouRock

#YesIMeanYOU

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family, motherhood

WFAM: Holiday Edition 2019

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2019 will forever be known as the year Mad Dog and I became the parents of teenagers!

How did we go from this:

 

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December 2018

To this:

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November 2019

Somehow our boys became young men in less than a year’s time!  No one tells you that when you become a parent.  That in an instant your children vanish and are replaced by grown-up versions of themselves.  Naively, I thought it would be more gradual.  How do I feel about this?  If I am to take a cue from T.Puzzle and his extreme articulation abilities which are common to thirteen year old boys around the world I’d say this:

“I dunno.”

or

“I don’t care.” (my personal favorite)

In general, despite some family growing pains due to the realm of the teenager, both boys are successfully finding their way in the world.  Academic success is part of that, and even this isn’t always smooth (A Humble Hero’s Journey), but it’s the intangibles that make them so awesome.  Like Mad Dog, our boys get better with age.

2019 was the year of dreams realized.  First and foremost, Mad Dog and I ventured to Africa (My Heart Belongs to Africa).  The magic of the African bushveld and all our adventures there have pushed me to keep writing.  I never know where it might lead, but I am learning to love the process and am grateful for any chance I am afforded to be published.

Fulfilling A Life Long Dream of Coming Face-to-Face with a Lion

Full Speed continues his basketball coaching journey by managing his high school’s freshman teams.  He takes great pride in this role making sure to dress the part on game days.  The freshman coach has expressed his appreciation for Full Speed’s strategical support and his positive leadership contributions. Something tells me this is only the beginning in what could be a life-long commitment to coaching for Full Speed.  He truly is in his element out on that court and we could not be more proud of him.

If coaching is Full Speed’s element, giving is mine. Thankfully, I married someone who supports this life vision.  Mad Dog and I were able to start our DeVaul Family Great Day Foundation this year.  Each month we are able to give to the causes we care about.  I am excited to see how it grows and where it goes.

And while some dreams were realized, 2019 was not without challenges.  Mad Dog and I continue to navigate the strain of ‘third-party’ influences on our marriage.  This has shown up in the fluffiest of forms:

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The only way I make peace with Nora ‘stealing’ my man’s attention, is that she allows me to dress her up like a Disney Princess:

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Girl, all is forgiven!

As I do my best to navigate ‘sharing’ Mad Dog, I am reminded that I, too, apparently have some boundary issues when it comes to Max.  When he came into our house over six years ago at the age of ten, I never thought he would live to see so many holiday seasons with us.  He is a reminder of all that is good in the world.  He may be cranky on occasion but he is a living, breathing form of what unconditional love looks like.

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When you’re sixteen going on seventeen…

Even though we are blessed with the most incredible boys and perfect dogs, we are happy to announce a new addition to our family!

Please welcome Roho the baby elephant! (yeah, I kind of freaked out my sister, too. All she heard was ‘baby’ and thought I had lost my mind)

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We are fostering Roho for the next several years in the hopes he will learn the needed skills to successfully return to the wild after losing his mom to poachers.  I will be getting my first pictures and official updates of his progress as Christmas arrives.  He, by far, is my most well-behaved child.

Welcome to the family, Roho!

While we are so grateful to all the wonder 2019 supplied us, we are even more excited for what the future will bring.  Yes, some of it may be unexpected and yes, it may not always look the way we imagined, but we have to be willing to let go of the life we wanted to live the life we are given.  In my experience, the life we are given always far exceeds anything we believe we could want.

Happy Holidays to All. 

Thank you for reading and may 2020 bring all your dreams alive!

Will the real Gardner Minshew please stand up?

LOVE

motherhood

A Kitchen Story

Having survived a four-month long master bathroom renovation at the beginning of 2019, I was dragging my feet when it came time to dismantle our kitchen.  While it looked nice enough, it struggled to keep up with our family.  The appliances appeared to enjoy malfunctioning, the cabinets and drawers were worn and uneven and the overall look did not reflect our style.  Yet, it was hard to give the green-light because I knew ‘4 weeks’ in contractor-speak really meant ‘4-ever’.  I attempted at first, to add to my renovation denial thinking we could reface the cabinets we already had.

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Mad Dog had other ideas.

He wanted a full tear-out.  I agreed that a tear-out was certain but it would only consist of all my hair.

He kept pushing.

He researched and found a highly-lauded cabinet designer.  Within a few short weeks the date of doom was set.  Goodbye old kitchen and hello weeks of construction chaos.

Within that first week our ‘4-week’ project quickly went off the rails.  Underneath our sink, pipes had been leaking causing rotted wood.  The pony wall connecting to this area was rotted out as well and the surrounding flooring needed to be tore-up, reinforced and replaced.

It was an ugly time for all.

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As the weeks dragged on and the hiccups continued, I started to see this process as a life metaphor.  If we hadn’t taken the time to deconstruct the entirety of the kitchen, we never would have known the rotted wood existed.  Sometimes in life we have to go deep beyond the surface to clear away what no longer serves us.  This is harder than a simple resurface, but it opens us up to living more aligned with our truth and our values.

As the finish line drew near, I had another paradigm-shifting insight thanks to our kitchen counters. My design choice is unique to say the least. In a world of white subway tile and trending white countertops, my bold, sea-glass themed recycled glass-tops are unexpected to put it mildly.  It took courage and a ton of encouragement from Mad Dog, but I went with what my heart wanted.

At the end of the day I know it will not be loved by all, but it most likely will inspire a reaction.  Isn’t that kind of the point of innovative design?  To make you feel something? And isn’t it kind of the point to follow your heart even if what you love defies the norms of larger society.

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But for me, the ultimate kicker is that Mad Dog championed my choice a thousand percent from start to finish.  He could care less what anyone else thinks because all that matters to him is what I think.

Every time I sit at my turquoise-speckled counter enjoying a cup of my favorite tea, I not only immerse myself in ocean-minded daydreams, I am reminded how loved I am.

These are the most beautiful countertops in the whole world.

humor, kids, motherhood

Memories in the Making

I’m pretty sure July 3rd is ‘Take Your Kids To Work’ Day.  I asked Mad Dog about it, but he wasn’t buying it.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy my time with my boys, in fact it’s kind of awesome.  Being able to hang out with them with no agenda has been incredibly fun.  However, after they spend loads of unstructured time together, this leads to frustration and maybe occasional acting out.  Therefore, please, “Take Your Kids to Work” Mad Dog.

I insist.

In all seriousness, I am grateful how much I enjoy their company.  This is the reward of parenting.  All the blood, sweat and tears has paid off.  Not to say their won’t be challenges ahead, but at least for this moment, being a mom is a lot of fun.

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Moving forward I understand that they will not want to hang out with me forever.  Even though I am entertaining, am an excellent Jazzerciser (this is cutting edge cool, right?) and know a lot of really famous people:

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Ah, but we will always have the memories of this summer … I intend to make the most of them.

 

motherhood

My Heart Belongs to Africa

Magic is real.

I lived it up close.

Close enough I could feel the air shimmer over my skin as a lion sauntered past me.  Less than a foot away I dug deep for courage as I sat exposed in an open-air Land Rover.  His paws silent as marshmallow pillows, his movements sleek as a crocodile slicing through a murky riverbed.

Even in the stillness this king exuded power.

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Magic.

All of it magic.

This is how I know fear does not always tell the truth.  If I had listened to fear I would have stayed home in my Cubs pajamas.

I would have missed an enraged elephant tossing sand at me as we interrupted his hunt for female companionship.

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I would have missed seeing so many leopards that I lost count. Mothers and babies, lone leopard warriors stalking the land for dinner, a female leopard mating with a father and son to ensure protection of her future progeny, leopards in trees and on termite mounds.

An abundance of spots and I loved every, single one of them.

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I would have missed meeting my idol and mentor, Martha Beck.

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Martha is a Light Writer and life coach.  Meeting her meant everything to me.  Her writing and wisdom carried me through a time in my life when I needed it most.  Getting to tell her that in person was, you guessed it, magic.

Martha Beck’s Safari – Finding Your Purpose

Martha is the reason I cast my fear aside  brought my fear with me, let it have its say and still went to South Africa anyway.

I did it for her and for Mad Dog.  His lifelong dream consisted of coming face to face with a lion while on safari.  I flew nearly 50 hours, endured 17 hours of layovers in Qatar, willingly rose daily at dawn and perched myself without complaint in a vehicle minus any enclosures to face the fiercest animals in all the land.

I would do it all again if only to see Mad Dog’s face each and every time we encountered lions.

Priceless.

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I hold gratitude for everyone who made it possible for Mad Dog to realize this dream.  From our extraordinary ranger and tracker, to my in-laws who took care of the boys and dogs while we traipsed across the savanna.

Thank you.

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Wine tastes better with zebras nearby and an African sunset to feast our eyes upon.
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Our awesome ranger/driver, Bruce, (next to Mad Dog) and our gifted tracker, Rob (next to me).

Every day dazzled us with mystery and wonder.

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My favorite African bird, the Lilac-Breasted Roller, made sure to pose for this most treasured photo.

As we watched animals roaming free and living immersed in the present moment, our hearts cracked open a bit wider and we grew in wisdom and love.

I never knew a place could change me forever.

But, then again, I had never been to Africa.

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