Life

Saying Goodbye to 2020 – Things Not on Bucket List (but should’ve been)

I know I should be saying goodbye to a year filled with chaos, dissention, and difficulty and writing about Covid, inequality, and the myriad of related tragedies. However, instead I am going to write goodbye to a year full of clarity, reflection, and hope.

The first week of 2020 started with my family becoming ill, with what we now know was Covid-19. I thought it could only be uphill from there. I hadn’t planned on my husband’s grandmother, who was such an amazing woman and a near daily part of my life for years, passing a couple of months after our illness. I also hadn’t planned on losing out on signing an author I had been pursuing for over a year, because through the anxiety of quarantine she found she no longer felt the desire to publish. I, as others, never anticipated editing and publishing screeching to a halt, or the mass shut down of businesses and loss of jobs.

However, in this past year, with so much going on, it also was the year of nothing going on.

Larry and I didn’t go to lunch twice a week together like we had before and certainly scaled back the parties and barbeques at our house, which had always been a mainstay. On one hand there was so much stillness, but on the other, so much chaos. It was a rollercoaster of ups and downs.

I’ve had a bucket list for years. It’s not really a I-MUST-DO-ALL-THESE-THINGS-BEFORE-I-DIE list, just more of a HEY-THIS-WOULD-BE-COOL-TO-DO-BEFORE-I-DIE list. Casually, over the years, I’d tick off something and put a strikethrough on it.

My main list contains mostly silly things like, “Dance in the Rain” and is accompanied by a secondary list titled, “Things Not on Bucket List (but should’ve been)” and includes stuff such as in 2013, “Take a romantic carriage ride with Larry.”

My husband hardly ever backtracks. Left your wallet, phone, or child? He likely won’t turn around. I learned this pretty early on our relationship, yet still a time or two I’ve left something important and he’d been reluctantly forced to go back. (Not a child, thankfully)

Mother’s Day 2020 started off wonderfully. The kids came and brought me a basket of some of my favorite things, and then we all went to Larry’s brother’s house along with other family members. We spent time outside, visiting, laughing, and having a wonderful lunch. Afterward, we started the small twenty-five minute drive to my sister’s for a Mother’s day crawfish boil.

About halfway there my husband said “Look” and pointed. I had time to catch the sight of an incredible Canadian goose family on the side of the road as we passed, with five little babies. But I wanted more. We have tons of Canadian geese that visit our pond twice a year, but never with goslings. I marveled at how incredible it was, in all of my fifty years, that was the first time I’d ever seen a Canadian goose family before.

First time in fifty years.

I asked if he would turn around so I could get a better look at them, maybe even take a few pictures. He, one, looked at me like I’d lost my mind, and two, said no, that we were already running late. I replied that it would only take a second, to which he said with humor (but also his famous sarcasm,) “a second, huh? That’s all, a second?”

He didn’t turn around and that was okay. I was sad for myself, but also sad for him, that he’d simply rather not turn around for a few minutes and enjoy that beauty for a little longer. I get it though, he’s not a backtracker.

When it comes to road trips I’m the take-the-way-you-feel, turn-around, stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of person.

Yielding and adventurous.

Larry is more of the know-your-destination, get-to-where-you-are-going, bring-the-roses-with-you-if-you-need-to-smell-them kind of person. 

Precise and adventurous.

There was one vacation where he did turn around, several times for me: California. And to me it was the best vacation!

Anyway, we went on with our day. I thought of the geese a few times, that cute little goose family with five cute, furry goslings, and decided to be thankful that Larry pointed them out to me at all and that God allowed me to see them, however briefly.

Mother’s day was awesome. All the kids, my sister and her husband, as well as a few of their neighbors, sat out doors and enjoyed the beautiful evening with Larry and me. On the way home, I secretly kept watch over the side of the road in hopes of seeing that little family, but they were gone.

The next morning I woke up with geese no longer on my mind. I washed a few dishes, picked up a bit, worked a while. Larry left to go to the store when my phone rang. It was him telling me to step outside. I walked out the front door and saw his car stopped down the driveway, but I didn’t see anything riveting…until I did.

That little goose family came into view. They were walking along the family property toward the pond in front of my house.

I sat, watched, cried, and thanked God for blessing me with something as small as seeing that little goose family again. I thanked God for Larry knowing what it would mean to me.

Now, I know the world narrative doesn’t revolve around me. I get it. However, I also know God cares about the things that concern me.

Of all the places in the entire area that sweet little goose family could’ve ended up on that day, they ended up here. The Momma and Daddy kept a focused eye on me as I watched and took their pictures, but they stayed for a while.

And I felt so overwhelming blessed, more so than I would’ve had Larry backtracked the day before.

Because it showed me that even in something so small, God does cares about the things that concern me and gives me the desires of my heart.

And that absolutely made it onto my “Things Not on Bucket List (but should’ve been)” list.

With the world having slowed down so much this past year, I realigned my priorities. I read a book in the park, something I hadn’t done in years. Completed a few home projects with Larry, something I hadn’t had time for in a while. I also experiences quite a few moments this year that made it onto that secondary list. One of those things is “Playing Chess with Husband at Night,” which replaced our “lunch date” that we’d had to forego due to quarantine. Those nights are better than any lunch date we’ve ever had.

At the beginning of May, Larry got me ducklings. One of them went lame, and I had to care for her throughout the days. She was the sweetest duck. She was friendly and loved to cuddle. It was heartbreaking when she passed away, but I felt so blessed to have had the connection I had with her because it was incredible. “Scoot” definitely made it onto my secondary list.

Once we started getting the rest of the ducks acclimated to the pond, which would be their permanent home, it was a bit frustrating and a major learning curve for them. On August 1st we opened the door to their home and waited. One-by-one they walked down the incline onto the grass.

Then, nothing.

By August 3rd I had to finally give them water because they’d yet to overcome their fear of the pond.

Slowly however, they got the hang of it. I’d stand at the front door with my coffee in the mornings, beaming with pride as I watched them swim around. They would also come around the house to visit us on the back porch every day. Then on November 10th we noticed that one of the ducks was missing. A couple days later, another was found dead. The morning after that, our niece, Jessie, called to let me know that one of the ducks was across the road. They thought she was dead, but then saw it was moving, only not a lot and assumed it was injured. When I went across the road, I saw that she wasn’t injured, she was scared. I guess I had thought that maybe she’d been hit by a car and was afraid to come back across the road, so I helped her cross.

Wherever the other remaining ducks were, I thought, they were soon to be back.

We’d decided, since obviously something was killing them, that we’d simply put them up at night. I watched all day, but no other ducks came back and by the end of the day the last one was gone too. I had hoped maybe they were hiding in the woods, which other flocks had done before. A couple days passed when my father-in-law called to let me know the duck was in fact in the pond, hiding on a ledge by one of the cypress trees. He fed her, but when she did come out, it was only briefly to eat, and then she returned to her safe spot.

Some people don’t know this about ducks but they are not supposed to be in the water for extended periods of time. Also, they are very social and loving creatures. I knew if I didn’t get her, something else would or she’d die in the water.

I went out to the pond several times a day to sit and feed her in hopes she’d come close enough so I could save her. We’d tried to catch her a few times, but failed, which scared her even more. I named her Esther and worried every morning, afternoon, and evening that I’d go out there and Esther would be dead or missing. Then on the third afternoon, she finally got close enough and I grabbed her. I wrapped her in a towel and started to walk to the house, when she snuggled up to my neck and fell asleep.

And I cried.

Larry brought the duck pin to our house and dubbed it Esther’s Quack House, mostly because every time she hears my voice, she starts quacking. She is affectionate and sweet.

Loving and Saving Esther Jester was one of the most beautiful parts of 2020 and made it onto the “Things Not on Bucket List (but should’ve been)” list.

A few other things that made the list in 2020 was:

Posting the Modern Grace Be You video with the models at a photoshoot, just to lighten peoples spirits,

When my sister, Wendy, coerced me to take a ride with her on her four-wheeler; first time for me as an adult. She’s the country girl and loves all things country. I am not. I like getting away to the country, but my ideal getaway doesn’t include sitting in a deer stand. As we rode that day, once I actually relaxed a bit, I thought it would definitely make it onto my “Things Not on Bucket List (but should’ve been)” list. We laughed and had fun. We rode around the property, where my family had moved to just before high school, and it was nostalgic and comforting. While Wendy and I talk almost every day, we don’t visit enough in person, I thought.

Binge watching Outlander, after my wrist surgery, with my sister-in-law and friend, from start to finish until we were done. They fixed my hair because I couldn’t, and we simply enjoyed each other. That time, which started out as a difficult DO-NOTHING time for me, ended up a fun memory full of the rest that I needed.

Putting our Christmas trees up in October!

Spending my daughter-in-law’s birthday with her. We made some of her favorite things and watched movies. A few days later took a quick run to New Orleans while she tried beignets for the first time.

This year has been full of secondary list things and while I did tick off a few Bucket List items that are important to me like: “Pet a cow” and “Dance in the rain” (At the time I hated that Larry took these pictures without me knowing, now I treasure them!)

also, “Have an all-day Diane Keaton movie fest with myself”

It’s the secondary list that became more important than the main Bucket List in 2020. It’s the things which happened, unplanned, that became memories and accomplishments that are seared into my soul. It’s remembering that life doesn’t follow a list, but we can still find the best out of the unexpected!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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decisions, Friends, hope, love, Uncategorized, Women

Women, Are We the Enemy?

Throughout this post I’ve sprinkled pictures of some of the amazing women in my life!

I’ve contemplated writing this post several times, only each time I went to write it, something didn’t feel quite “right” just yet. That was until my daughter transferred from her college in New Orleans to a community college locally. Larry and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have her closer. While New Orleans isn’t that far from us, it seemed a world away at times. On her enrollment day at BRCC, something happened that prompted me to finish this post that I’d started a dozen or so times before.
 
Years ago, after Alexis’ second semester in college, her positive college experience changed. A new employee moved into the Veteran’s Affairs position and she not only refused to help Alexis on many occasions, but also said and did a number of things, to her and me, which proved she was not the right person to be helping Veterans or their dependents at all. This woman caused so much anxiety and undue stress for Alexis that spanned over three semesters. It was her inexperience at the least, illegal at most, (I’d much rather use the word ignorance, but a VA Rep asked me to keep it at “inexperience,”). We met with the office of the president of the university, filed complaints and ended up eventually having to file a Formal Congressional Complaint about the situation. A new chancellor was hired, apologized to us for the mistreatment, and worked out a resolution for Alexis. By then, however, a lot of the damage was already done. 

Our experience with this new employee at the University reminded me of an event that sparked one of the most pivotal times in my life. Just after we’d bought our first house in Virginia, I was set to speak at a women’s conference. I had a radio campaign that gifted Valentine’s Day photography and makeover packages through my business running on the radio for four weeks prior and it brought me to the attention of one of the conference directors. While the conference was small, I was especially excited, because it was the first one I’d been ask to contribute to that wasn’t coordinated through one of the local churches or for military dependents.  ​

I worked on my speech all week. It’s funny to remember how important I felt having a computer. Larry bought it from a friend (thanks Tate) and I used it often. Matter of fact, I started The Funeral Flower on that very computer.

Anyway, with Larry’s mean editing skills we honed the speech until it was perfect. I printed two copies on our continuous form paper printer, put them in my portfolio and safely tucked it away in my satchel.

Sidebar: Larry had just bought me the satchel so I would look, and more likely feel, professional. He believes in having quality accessories and he is right, that one satchel carried me through my first company and boosted my confidence professionally.

The day finally arrived. Larry was deployed and I had one of my best friends watching Jaymes-Irish (Thanks Bridget) and I was ecstatic! I arrived at the designated time and was taken to a holding room with the other speakers. I mingled as usual, but the atmosphere was definitely different. Making my rounds through the tight space to meet all the other women and engage was hard enough in such a small area, but to say the mood was tense would be an understatement. 

​Soon, a man came to usher us to the main building. He warned us that it was pouring down rain and handed us umbrellas to share. He also said we could leave any valuables, such as purses, because the door would be locked until the end of the day. I immediately thought of my satchel; the new one Larry bought me. I didn’t want it to get rained on, so I eased my portfolio out of it and left it sitting safely on a chair.

Not long after, I was scooting through the rain with my umbrella-partner in a line of women.

And I started giggling.

Another sidebar: I always giggle when I’m running through the rain and I have no idea why. I assume, because it makes me feel like a child, but again, I really can’t pinpoint it. My daughter says it’s because my spirit animal is a little yellow duckie. I honestly can’t disagree.

Anyway, there I was giggling, running through the rain and I glanced over at my umbrella partner. She was looking at me like I had lost my mind, which quickly caused me stop giggling. I remember feeling the odd sense of extreme insecurity. The last time I’d felt it was right after we had Jaymes-Irish years before. Then, as I’m known to do, I tripped slightly (anyone who knows me well enough knows I’m a total klutz) and my portfolio went flying out of my hands… into a deep puddle of water.

Yeah.

By the time we made it to the main holding area and I opened the portfolio, with all the other women watching, I found that everything was soaked. Both copies of my speech were ruined and my entire brand new note pad was useless. I heard one of the women laugh and thought how awful that was. It only added to my overall unfamiliar insecurity. Panic set in for the next few minutes. Then, I stopped and prayed. I decided I would write down as much as I could remember and simply do the best I could. I still had an hour and a half until my time slot, so I removed my pen from the portfolio and began asking for a sheet of paper.  ​

Then, the pivotal time, the moment that my life truly changed.

The first woman I asked, who had a portfolio like mine, with a thick notepad, said “no,” adding she needed her paper. I remember being shocked that she’d said no. Of course she didn’t owe me her paper, but it was shocking she wouldn’t give me a sheet. I moved on to the next woman. One after another, and with a variety of excuses, I was told that I couldn’t have a sheet of paper. One had a smirk on her face and I remember thinking she had to have been the one who laughed, although I can’t be sure. Everyone had paper except for two of the younger women, one who had her speech written on the folded up paper in her hands, the other had her speech on index cards. I resigned myself and had all but given up when the younger woman who had her speech on index cards, came up to me with a pamphlet from the conference. She said there was space at the end for conference attendees to take notes.

I wanted to cry. Not because of the insecurity and betrayal I felt at all the women who wouldn’t help me; I wanted to cry because of the one woman that did.

Inspiration hit me suddenly and I started writing. Everything just poured out into those few small pages in the back of that pamphlet.  ​

As the conference commenced, I watched from the special section up front as a couple of the speakers got up, one after the other, to speak. Each of them talked about the power of determination and perseverance. How nothing should stand in your way as you power through and overcome every obstacle. They each gave a list of their accomplishments in life. I realized my initial speech had been similar. When it was my time, I took a deep breath, walked across the stage, adjusted the microphone for my height, and started.

I showed the audience my pamphlet and the speech in the back. I told the same story I just told you: about being so excited to speak here, my husband helping me perfect my speech and buying me the brand new satchel. I told of the crowded room, the rain, and leaving my very special satchel behind. I laughed as I talked about giggling in the rain and then got serious as I addressed my sudden unfamiliar insecurity at the way my umbrella-partner looked at me in disgust. When I got to the part about nearly tripping and watching as my portfolio fell into that puddle, I heard a gasp cycle through the crowd. I mentioned the loss I felt when I opened my portfolio and found everything ruined; also the laugh I heard from one of the other women. Another gasp from the audience.

Then, I told the part about asking the women who were speaking at the conference that day for a sheet of paper.  How all of them who had portfolios or notebooks full of paper had said no. Then I told about the one whom had her speech on paper, folded and wished she could help but had no extra. Then, I told about the young woman, about my same age then, who only had her index cards. How she brought me the pamphlet because it had empty pages in the back that I could use. How, as I was writing vigorously, that same young woman also brought me a cup of water.

Then, I said that the most important thing I think as women we can offer *is ourselves*; That when we lift up a friend, we all rise to new heights together. I told them that my dad raised my sisters and me in that basic principal and I never really knew what it meant, until the exact moment when the woman gave me a free pamphlet and simple cup of water.
 
I received a lengthy applause when I was done and several women in the audience stood. I felt accomplished. I felt I delivered the very message I needed to deliver that day and I had no doubt someone needed to hear it.
 
After being seated the next speaker was announced. She walked across the stage holding her notebook, evidently uncomfortable. A visible murmur broke out over the audience.
 
Her speech followed the same path as the other two before me. She lined out how women must persevere. How we must make our way no matter the sacrifice. She stumbled on her words a bit here and there, no doubt remembering what my speech and her actions earlier. Also, knowing that each audience member knew as well. She continued, explaining how we had to work harder than men. Then she laid out all of her many professional accomplishments for women throughout the years.
 
It was almost ridiculous to listen to after knowing she wouldn’t give even one sheet of paper to another woman. 

She received no applause.

Then, the young woman walked across the stage, index cards in hand, received a full house standing ovation. It didn’t take long for me to realize it wasn’t my message that mattered that day. It was that my message pointed everyone toward her message. Everyone listened intently as she talked about growing up with a mom who was drunk most of the time and a dad who worked a lot. He was a good provider, but left her to handle everything her mother neglected; including a younger sibling. I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t remember if it was a brother or sister. (Likely, because I was blubbering too much). When she was in middle school, her English teacher gave out an assignment to the class: write a paper about their home life. One day after school the teacher asked her to stay behind and the first thing the teacher told her, after all the other students were gone is, “You don’t need a mother.”

Of course the audience gasped, including me.

She continued to tell that the teacher explained that she needed to stop pitying herself and notice that God can, and will, put many women in her life that will help her. The teacher asked her if she had any unanswered questions that she would ask her mother if she could. She replied, “Yes.”

The teacher responded, “shoot.”

She told the attentive crowd how that day marked a new beginning for her. She would always recognize the women in her path that helped her.

When she first had to use the laundromat, because their machine broke, a woman showed her how to use the big machines and gave her detergent. When she first started learning to drive, a neighbor woman took her every day after school, in her car, to learn. When it came time for college and she didn’t know where to start, an admissions woman helped her fill out paperwork and secure her grants, scholarships, and loans. When she first started looking for a job and needed a resume, a woman in the library helped her create one. When she got married, she gained a solid woman in her mother-in-law, who helps her all the time.

She learned through her young life that we all have women who help us. “Unfortunately,” she paused, looked at me and stated, “we also have women who don’t. Sometimes, even women who will try and sabotage us.”

She stated that she’d learned in her young years that often women who don’t help were often ones who didn’t recognize when they were helped. They take sole credit for their achievements. Many may have grown up in their own self-pity, even used it to drive them to get ahead. While they do exist, very, very few women ever really make it all on their own.
 
She paused, the audience (including me) was so enraptured that you could’ve literally heard a pin drop, she then stated, “Somewhere along the way, we as women must make a decision. It is unavoidable.  We must decide which woman we want to be: The hunter or the helper.”
 
She received a standing ovation as she walked off the stage. After her, many women left, in mass at first, then a trickle throughout the day. No more than ten or fifteen remained when the keynote speaker walked across the stage to deliver her speech. It was awkward and I did feel sad for her. Her notepad was still full, but I could see she regretted that it was. I’m pretty sure she became a helper that day. 

Back to the situation that prompted me to think about that conference, upon my daughter’s recent enrollment at BRCC, Alexis was stressed having to go see the woman over the Veterans Department, with good reason, given her previous experience from the other school. Only this time, when she went, she found Ms. Deborah, a woman who spent time helping her and encouraging her. A woman who also at some point in her life made the decision to be a helper.

Unfortunately, back in the early nineties we didn’t have social media, so the young woman from the conference and I didn’t keep in touch (would love to find her!) I always regretted not getting more information about her, but I’ve learned since then that not all women are meant to stay in your life. Some are there for a season, maybe even as quick as a trip to the convenient store. Others will be in your life longer, like some of my lifelong friends. Some women won’t want your help because they aren’t used to it. They may even doubt it, because what woman helps another woman for no reason, right? We’ve all run in to the helpers and the hunters. We’ve all played the adversary as well as the ally.

I am thankful today to have many beautiful and gracious women in my life; women who help and inspire me. I have enemies, but I have more encouragers and for that I count myself fortunate. My hopes are that I do the same in return and always recognize those women who help me along the way. 

Which woman will you choose to be? The hunter or the helper? The adversary or the ally? The enemy or the encourager? Sometimes, I think, we have to make that choice again and again.







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decisions, Life, love, Society

We Did it Our Way

Not long after my first book release in June of 2017, I started planning a special surprise for my husband. I knew we’d have a lot going on in 2018, from me publishing my second novel, starting another company and publishing a magazine. However, I also knew we couldn’t wait any longer, this was the year. So I started planning.

When I first married my husband in 1991 we had a beautiful, traditional church wedding. I wasn’t shocked to see what my mother and Aunt Gail, my dad’s sister, had accomplished in such a short time, because I’d seen them throw parties together that rivaled ones where people had a year or more to plan. So, it came as no surprise that our wedding was perfect.

Larry and Michelle Jester wedding pictures i4aa

However, when we first started looking for dresses, my aunt, (the queen of etiquette), quickly let me know that my dress couldn’t be white; etiquette would only allow an off-white dress. I wasn’t a virgin and on top of that I was pregnant…in The South. The “can’t wear white thing” didn’t really didn’t bother me, until I told Larry. He said no one should make me feel less than perfect. Not only are we in love, but he also thought that if etiquette makes people feel bad about themselves or dirty then it should be tossed out the window (not his exact words). However, still, I wasn’t allowed to get a white dress. The answer is “yes” for those of you that are asking, I was an adult, 21 years old, but in my family those decisions weren’t left up to me. So, I found a beautiful off-white satin gown and had a lovely wedding. Now, luckily in most of the pictures it did look white, however, it wasn’t.

SIDE NOTE: Much of etiquette WAS designed to separate classes, hence making people feel “less than” and also apparently for keeping women in line, since public shaming for having had sex out of wedlock was NOT wearing a white dress at your own wedding.

I know many of you may think it’s ridiculous that I wasn’t allowed to wear white, but etiquette was important in our family for a few reasons; One was that our mother grew up very poor and wanted to separate herself from that. Another reason was that our dad grew up not poor. An additional reason was that during most of our younger years (1965–1980) our father’s uncle served as Mayor of Baton Rouge. Lastly, Aunt Gail was very serious about etiquette; she was a home economics teacher and national speaker on the subject. She won an award for devising a way of NEVER forgetting how to set a simple place setting. So, for those reasons, many of the societal rules were instilled in my sisters and me. Hence, I didn’t think much of it when I was informed I wouldn’t be wearing a white dress.

christmas-cutlery-dinner-6305

Flash forward twenty years, after a major car accident I had in 2011, my husband joked about going to Vegas and getting remarried by an Elvis impersonator (read about that here), to which I joked that I might even wear a white dress regardless the time of year (there is a triple meaning in that, because I wear black most days, I didn’t get my white wedding dress originally, also because you weren’t/aren’t supposed to wear white clothing in cooler seasons, it should be off-white – except for a wedding dress, if you were virginal – and no white shoes after labor day… **PAUSE** EXACTLY! Phew!) Anyway, that year, the year of my accident, was also the same year Larry started the process of retiring from the military. A lot changed that year. Following the accident, I lost my business. To be honest, I lost a few friends and a bit of myself. Those losses weren’t bad, though. I gained a new direction, new friends, and a new perspective on life.

Throughout the years prior, we would talk about things in our wedding that we really would’ve changed or improved upon if we could do it all over again. One of the things we would change, as I have clearly driven home, is that I WOULD wear white. I would also wear black, because I could. Another thing, was that Larry’s brother, Patrick, would be in the ceremony. At the time we married Patrick was overseas. Also, that his sister, Melinda, would be in it. She and I weren’t close in 1991, so when I asked her to be a bridesmaid, she declined. This time, I’d also wear contacts instead of glasses. At the time of our original wedding I couldn’t wear contacts and in lieu of not seeing Larry’s face I wore the glasses. We also discussed through the years having our closest family and friends be IN the wedding, instead of spectators.

Soon, the idea of a vow renewal and doing it “our way” went from being a quirky thought, to earning a top slot on my bucket list. I even picked out a trendy wedding hashtag!

I can say, life rarely goes the way we plan it, but you do have to make decisions along the way. Should I do what I’m “supposed” to do? What will people think? What if I fail?

Larry and Michelle Jester High school

When Larry and I met, in high school, we were told by many people that we didn’t “belong” together and that it would never work. To this day he’s the best thing that ever happened to me! When our children were young, we were told how we should parent. One of our daughter’s friends’ father even said we were “enablers” for talking to our children calmly, being so forgiving and having no set curfew for our children (read more about how we ARE enablers here). When I started my businesses, I was told how I should run them. When Larry retired, how he should spend it. My magazine has critics, so do both of my novels, mainly for having “too much” God; I can absolutely guarantee all the others will as well.

But one thing ties all of those things together… ***more on that later***

Now, back to when I first started planning our vow renewal ceremony, several people thought it was silly. That’s okay. If I’ve learned anything it’s that everyone is full of advice for you, but it’s you who must live it. And being silly together is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things you can do in life. I’ve also learned that people devalue things that are important to you, but doing those things don’t have to be important to other people. None of us have to follow the same plan as everyone else. We can be as different as we really are. There are so many rules, even simple etiquette, that tell us how we are supposed to live.

Sometimes, other people break the rules of society and you have to deal with the consequences. One such “rule” that is STILL grievously prevalent, yet an unwritten rule, is that if you’re parents are divorced, you are somehow broken. You are tainted, from a “broken home” and somehow not as valuable. My husband is from a divorced home and has never considered himself broken or invaluable because of it; Neither have I. However, he clearly remembers many adults treating him as though he were, all because his parents chose to not be together anymore. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on the topic is by Mary Widdicks (found here).

As I said we were raised to value etiquette. Rules of society are important. It teaches us more than just which fork to use. It also teaches us respect for others, manners and the proper way to behave in certain settings. Boundaries if you will. However, the older I get the more I realize many of those rules do indeed make people feel bad about themselves.

At the very least it can make someone feel uncomfortable; at its worst, unworthy.

While etiquette is important to me. So is grace, Southern Grace and Godly Grace. Sometimes when we value rules more than people, it is almost a lack of both graces. Sometimes, people confuse the expectations of others as rules. And I’ve learned, sometimes, when we value etiquette or other’s expectations over our own voices, we devalue ourselves.

So last year, with the BEST ELVIS IMPERSONATOR EVER and top Saints Superfan, I wore that white dress, with that black jacket, surrounded by many of our friends and family and renewed my vows to my incredible husband!

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(To view FULL album click here.)

Going into this New Year I’m reflecting like most everyone else. The vow renewal ceremony meant so much more to us than just being silly or whimsical. And while it was fun, it also represented something serious and fulfilling: a new start, changing, overcoming, and living life…

And the one thing that ties all of it, life, together…

Yeah, wait for it…

WE DID IT OUR WAY

And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.michelle jester blog author Elvis Randy Bonneval 138

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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Family, Friends, laugh, Life

Picture the Best You

I like to see the positive in life as much as I can. Next month I will be turning 49! I’ll have 49 year old wrinkles, a 49 year old body, 49 years’ worth of experience, and a 49 year old birth certificate. However, my most important asset is my heart, which most days feels caught somewhere between 16-24. While many women dread growing older, I feel blessed.

Secret time: I really never thought I’d make it to my forties. Why? I’ve analyzed it overMichelle_Jester_picture2 the years to understand why I felt that way and the only probable reason I was able to conclude was that when I was younger it seemed every woman I knew over forty was miserable.  I just couldn’t picture myself being miserable. I don’t often feel depressed or discontent and thought it just wouldn’t suit me very well. Ironically, growing up I never feared growing older. Instead, I always looked forward to it purposefully.

That decision was sorely tested when I had an auto accident years ago. I faced my mortality with a new stark clarity and inevitable truth: I really will die one day, any day, any minute.  It wasn’t that I was close to death physically, because I wasn’t, it’s that my mind faced the fear that I was.  Following that day several close friends and family passed away fortifying my… our, predictable end to life on earth.  Before that day I just thought I’d probably die before I became miserable. .. one day.

One far off, down the road day.

Michelle_Jester_picture1Truth is, I could die today (and if I do this blog will be SUPER CREEPY). I could have a heart attack while eating breakfast (that was easier to type since I already ate breakfast.).  However, I want to enjoy what I have now. I want to see beauty all around me and to fall in love with as many things as possible.

One of my favorite things is, obviously, photography. I not only love taking pictures, but I love seeing other people’s pictures. My love for photography started really young, fostered by my father. Long before cell phones and social media he took pictures of everything in his quest to preserve memories. When he and mom passed away we were so thankful to have all of those memories locked on film. I remember getting my children their first cameras and I am so happy to have their first chronicles on film.

Now in the age of cell phones and social media I have several of my friends who posts beautiful pictures regularly and I love it. I get to experience their journey with them through life. To me, it’s personal and rewarding. I believe they each truly find beauty all around them wherever they go. Best part of it is that they share that beauty with everyone. Part of their enjoyment IS in TAKING the picture, same as me.

I remember a commercial where a man and young girl were sitting on a mountain Michelle_Jester_picture3looking out at a gorgeous view. The girl goes to raise her phone to take a picture and the man grabbed her arm and lowered it. The point was to “enjoy” life by “feeling” it. The man was blind. As powerful as it was intended to be, my first thought was “Let the girl take the picture, she’ll never be here again! She’ll regret not having it. She’s taking it because she is already enjoying and feeling it.”  (Second thought “How did he know she was raising her phone if he is blind?”) Obviously other people had that same reaction and the commercial was edited to take out that particular ending.

 

There is always the one in your group (or two or three) like me who is always taking pictures. That is one of the ways we enjoy life. For those of you that think we are “missing out” on enjoying the moment, try to understand that this is our way of enjoying it.

Being happy today to live does not mean I‘ll be sad if I die tomorrow; I won’t be. It just means I’m thankful to be 49 and sharing it! And that I’ll have mapped some of my most precious memories on my camera roll for my family to enjoy long after I’m gone.

And if that is tomorrow, before breakfast, so be it.

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Children, Family, God, Life, love, Uncategorized

Getting Arrested, Yard Sticks, and Waiting for a “Yes”

The “mom thing” – I do my best and I learn as I go. I pray (a lot) for God to change and mold me into the mother I need to be for my children, because it’s a job that is ever changing.

Every Mother’s Day, I thank my kids for making it easy-because they have. The older I Michelle Jester 8482201988a2get, the more I realize it’s the toughest job I’ll ever undergo. I’ve had to analyze intentions, watch trends, set budgets, be lenient, be tough, embrace emotion, reject emotion, and learn more…all about myself as a person and a mother. I claim repeatedly through the years that I’ve grown more than they have. I learn when to let go and when to hold tight; and I learn that one concept over and over and over again, because that still changes daily.

There is a story I’ve told through the years about my mother, and I always preface it with:

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One day, when I was too young to remember, the story goes: my mother was arrested. Earlier that day, she called around to all of her friends in search of a yardstick and someone who could sit with us three girls for the afternoon. Even earlier that day, my

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sister’s school had my mother come pick up my sister prematurely. The story continues: “The moment she saw my sister in the principal’s office, she’d already planned the rest of the day in her mind.” See, when we were young, schools could paddle children if the parent allowed it. My mother was abused by her father and therefore did not allow anyone to physically punish us. Except for her. You’ve probably already figured out the reason my mother was arrested, but I’ll finish the story anyway. Even though the teacher knew she could not physically punish my sister, she spanked my sister with a yardstick, leaving horrible whelps down her back and legs. So, my mother took a yardstick, went to the school, to the teacher’s classroom, and beat HER with it.

Like I said

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As awful as my mother’s reaction sounds, I LOVE that story. My mother was tough. She was raised tough. She was a strong, country woman living in upscale South Baton Rouge. Beating the teacher wasn’t the best solution (or the legal one) but that was the only way she knew how to be a good mother and protector.

When I’ve joked through the years that mothers are lionesses, that is one of the stories (there are a few) about my mom that I think of. I attribute a lot of my grit and my protectiveness over my children to her.

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My mother wasn’t very “lovey” or affectionate when we were young. She didn’t say “I love you” or dote on how proud she was of us. That just wasn’t her personality; it was my dad’s. She did, however, pride herself on ensuring we had three meals a day. Always clean and healthy. Dressed nice: jewelry, clothes, shoes, and purses…the works. She showed love by providing and protecting in her own way. In her later years, she became more affectionate and did dote on how proud she was of us. She changed.

Change is hard, but it can also be good.

Young parents say that I must be happy that our children are grown. I am, but I also know that the hardest part of mothering for me is now. We’ve given them everything we felt they needed to find their way in life. Now it’s up to them to live it. They won’t live it the way we want them to…and that’s good. It’s also terrifying. Of course we’ll help them by being there. When they ask for advice we’ll give it. Sometimes, when they don’t ask, we’ll give it. We’ll be there to hold their head off the concrete when we can and we’ll step back and let them live.

When Jaymes-Irish started kindergarten, Alexis had just been born by c-section and I

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had to let J.I. catch the bus. I was already emotional because I always thought of that day as me driving him to school, going into his class with him, meeting his teacher and leaving when he was settled just as I had

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done in pre-k. However, I couldn’t drive and I had a newborn. So he caught the bus. I was, for the first time since Alexis was born, alone with her. I started crying. Watching my son get on that bus was tough. Compiled with hormones, it was dreadful. Then, Alexis started crying. Nothing I did was enough, which made me cry more. When my mother-in-law called to check on me it only took a moment for her to ask if I needed her. I said “no”, we’d be okay. After the third day I barely squeaked out a “yes” on the phone before she replied “I’m on my way.”

Forward eighteen years to the first time Alexis called me on a weekend from her first apartment in New Orleans needing to go to the doctor, I went straight to her. When I saw how high her fever was, I took her to the emergency room. A year later, Alexis called from an emergency room to let me know she had a severe kidney infection and was being admitted to the hospital. I immediately told her I was on my way. She rebutted with a “No, mom I’m okay, it is no big deal and Abbye (her best friend/roommate) is going to stay with me.” I said, “Alexis, I am going there. Period.”

Get ready for the heartbreak

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She replied “Mother, I’m an adult. I’m okay. I don’t want you to come down here. I mean it. I can handle this. I love you.” I called my mother-in-law crying and she said, “All you can do is call, check on her, ask if she wants you there and although it’s tough, don’t go unless she says ‘yes.’”

For three days I stayed dressed, called, asked, however she never said “yes.” I cried each

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day, prayed, but I let my daughter claim her independence….and I thought of my mother-in-law. I’ve often wondered, since then, if she was dressed and ready to come each day after Alexis was born.

I am asking God repeatedly, “What do I do?” and “How do I handle this?” Then, I try to listen. In being a parent I realize I’m also the child. I have a Father that I rely on to help me. To guide me.

And I’ll rely on my husband. He does better at the “adult children thing” than I do. I realize now, I know a lot less than I ever thought I did when the kids were young.

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And together Larry and I will pray.

And we’ll ask my in-laws for advice.

And we’ll do the best we can.

When our children have children one day, I hope they will be protective like my mother was of us. I also hope they will be half as good to them as my mother-in-law is to me and to remind them that they want their kids to be independent, just like my mother-in-law reminds me.

I would recommend them not get arrested though, but I do know they will always be waiting for a “Yes.”

And I also know God will guide them.

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Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

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Anger, decisions, forgiveness, God, hope, Mistakes, triumph

It Wouldn’t be the First Time

We all do things that we regret, make mistakes, sometimes big ones that are hard to overcome. Before I knew it, over two weeks had passed by and I had failed someone close to me by not being there for them during an extremely difficult and life-changing time in their life.

Michelle_Jester_ForgivenessIt wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a mistake, and won’t be the last, unfortunately, because we all do it. I apologized repeatedly, yet, unfortunately the relationship may already be lost. Why is it lost? Because it’s hard to get past when a close friend or family member isn’t there for you.

I know since I’ve been there.

In 2002, I was at the height of my career at the time and finally figuring out the perfect balance between work and family.

I was on top of the world.

Then suddenly, I had an auto accident and it was gone. Not long after that, Larry was activated and deployed to Afghanistan. I was depressed and trying my best to fake it for my kids. We prayed a lot, but I didn’t feel joy or happiness like I had before. I was physically hurt, and worse I had obtained short-term memory loss from the blow to my head I had sustained. Luckily, my sister and best friend noticed it rather quickly and started helping me.

We got a large dry erase board and they hung it on the wall in the hallway. My sister bought me a journal notebook and I kept it with me most of the time. I’d write down as much as I could to help me remember. I had sticky notes all over the house and my kids were lifesavers! They’d make me laugh and we found ways to have fun without me exerting myself too much. When Larry would call, he’d ask J.I. when was the last time one family member or another had helped or visited, and Larry would get upset over the answer. One day J.I. told him it was almost like we lived in a country by ourselves, other than a couple of family members and neighbors that were there for us. I’d look back in my journal to the last time we’d seen anyone else’s name, and I guess after flipping so many days back I’d gotten angry too.

That 2002 accident took something much more valuable than just my physical movement or short term memory, it took my joy.

Joy I’d had for years!

I would hold back the tears, mostly, throughout the day, but as soon as the kids went to sleep I was up half the night crying. I refused to take the pain medicine I was prescribed after the doctor told me that I processed medicine very slowly and could overdose if I wasn’t extremely careful. That scared me enough to refuse taking it altogether. So, I’d sit in bed and cry, write novels and poems, and also in my journal.

I couldn’t understand how some of the people who said they cared for us could forget us. My daughter at one point said she really missed one personMichelle_Jester_Forgiveness2 a lot and I told her to call, maybe she could go visit. But after a few let downs, I stopped letting her call and she stopped asking.

I told her people don’t owe us their time. They have a life of their own to live, and that’s okay. Only, I didn’t really feel that way; I just didn’t want my daughter to be as hurt as I was.

I felt abandoned.

Now granted, not everyone abandoned us. We are blessed to have good people in our lives. Unfortunately, when you are going through a very difficult time, it’s hard to see many of them go on with their daily lives as if nothing had happened.

Did I expect the world to stop? No. However, I did expect it to miss us.

After Larry came home and some of the friends started reconnecting again, it made the kids and me hurt more in ways. We would talk out our feelings together and pray.

…And that’s the hardest part to get through: the hurt and anger of abandonment.

When I had a second auto accident in 2011, which was much more severe, I was determined, through all the tears, heartache, and pain that I wouldn’t lose my joy, no matter who scattered. No matter how bad it got.

And it got bad.

I cried more than I thought was physically possible. My kids seem to automatically jump into care mode, and for that I’m forever grateful. My husband and my sister were rock solid, as usual.

The following months after my second accident, and several procedures forMichelle_Jester_Forgiveness4 my back, I asked Alexis to get me the old journals from my 2002 accident out from a box under my bed. I decided after days of reading it, that most of it could be trashed. I saved some parts because I’d already decided to start a blog and knew I could use them, but the majority of it was, unintentionally, just a record of wrongs.

A daily record of who I spoke with or saw after my first accident. Who came by and who didn’t. It was shocking that it still stirred feelings of hurt and anger. I’ve always thought I was really good at forgiving others, yet those feelings were still there.

I hadn’t thought I had really “learned” any great life lessons that came out of my 2002 accident until possibly that moment, after my 2011 accident, bedridden and reading those journal passages.

I saw how easy it was to serve God when I have peace and joy; also, how it was a choice I had to make daily when I didn’t.

I made a few decisions that day.

As I read, I knew in my heart keeping all those journals was wrong. Not just for me, for the kids and my husband also, and for their relationship with others too. More importantly, for my relationship with God.

Michelle_Jester_Forgiveness5I thought of 1 Corinthians 13:5. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Not only was most of that 2002 journal written from my hurt and anger, which can certainly skew a viewpoint, but it highlighted people in a negative way because of the hurt and anger.

It was difficult, but after ripping out parts I wanted to keep for possible future blogs, redacted names, Larry burned the rest.

I asked God to help me forgive people and remove the remnants of the hurt I still carried deep down even almost ten years later, that I didn’t even realize I had held onto.

And I felt free.

The next decision for that accident: I would focus on the good in every day, not the bad.

Not the people who didn’t visit, but the ones who did.

Not to be angry, instead try to understand how time can get away from people.

Not on the pain, but on the recovery.

Not on the loss of friends, but on the gaining of new ones.

Then, I found myself to be that person that let almost two weeks go by while an important person in our lives went through a very difficult time. I didn’t realize it had been that long, until I texted to check on them and they lashed out in anger. We tried calling after that, only they wouldn’t answer. I texted an apology and asked what I could do, but the response back came from hurt and abandonment, and I understood.

I could’ve used a bunch of excuses, and did try at first, but the truth was… no excuse is good enough to someone when they are going through such an awful time in their lives.

I remember how it felt when people gave them to me. I’ve always said, people may have had a reason to forget us, but it certainly, to me, was no excuse.

So, I finally left the excuses aside and earnestly apologized.

I also knew I couldn’t make them forgive us. No matter what I did, nothing can force forgiveness from another person.

As I had originally hoped it would, time has softened that hurt and slowly that relationship is being mended.

Learning means facing myself, facing my own misgivings, and changing what isn’t good. Which is often difficult to do.

I was wrong to let time slip away when someone we love needed us the most. Especially, because I understand the feelings of hurt and abandonment.

I also know we, each of us, can’t carry around the baggage of guilt forever – we have to let it go at some point.

We each must realize there isn’t anything we can do to cover a wrong, except to apologize in earnest, while asking God to ease the hurt of abandonment and let love do the rest.

Understanding that we all go through some of the same issues and conflictsMichelle_Jester_Forgiveness6 helps us see the other person’s side. It helps us to release whatever unforgiveness we may be holding on to and move forward. Perhaps, if we understand a bit more we can work on our own perspective of situations, removing the hurt and anger that feeds it.

I know that I am imperfect. I want to try and learn through situations to be better, but I can only do that when I remove all the emotions that I cling to such as hurt and anger, that fuel excuses and perspectives. I imagine I’ll be working on that for years to come. We all will.

Fortunately, I know God will cover us through it all.

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“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4: 32

“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

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Jester Family Christmas Cards of the Past

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My husband has such an incredible imagination, which makes life entertaining, to say the least. His Christmas cards are always a fun topic each year! Several friends asked me to post some of their favorites so I looked up the last seven years. Some years we have two, one for me and one for Larry (since Breaking Bad, Blacklist, and Pulp Fiction aren’t really my thing). Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!

2011

Gene Simmons Family Jewels. This family reflected a lot of our family dynamics at times, so we all felt it fitting to mirror their promos.

2011 Michelle Jester Christmas Card Gene Simmons

2012

This year we wanted to poke fun at ourselves since those positions were ones we found each other in often: Larry on the phone for work, me on one of my two phones (public and private) more than likely working and reading a book at the same time, Jaymes-Irish texting, and Alexis taking a selfie.

2012 Michelle Jester Christmas Card phones

2013

This year we had two. Larry’s was an obvious throw in to Pulp Fiction,

2013 Jester Christmas Card Larry Ezekial

while mine was a standard family portrait at Nottaway Plantation.

2013 Michelle Jester Christmas Card Michelle Nottaway

I considered this one of the most important family portraits, because it would be our last before Jaymes-Irish shipped to the Air Force. This one is still one of my favorite portraits and memories. Thanks to my nephew, Evan, for taking this and for his help in making that day super fun!

2014

Larry’s Blacklist Card! What makes this one extra special is all of the nicknames in the background are actual people in our lives.

2014 Christmas Card Larry Blacklist

Mine that year was simple and fun. It was so nice to have Jaymes-Irish home for Christmas and watch him propose to Mariah.

2014 Jester Christmas Card by the fire

2015

By far the card to get the most attention! No one needs to be told where this one came from, needless to say, I had a separate card that year.

2015 Christmas Card Larry Breaking Bad

It was important to me to introduce the new addition to our family, our daughter-in-law, Mariah.

2015 Jester Christmas Michelle

2016

This was a tough one. With the awful flooding that passed through in August leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and destitute we knew we wouldn’t have a funny card that year. So we kept it simple.

2016 Michelle Jester Christmas Card

2017

And I think this year’s is my favorite of all. Not only did I borrow Barbara Corcoran’s sexy pose, but Mr. Wonderful is doing a sign with his hands that Larry uses (also one that was passed down through his grandfather Spurlock) to let me know in a crowded place that he’s done and ready to go… basically, his way of saying ‘I’m out’. It really fits us this year. We did more spending time with loved ones and less drudgery of shopping. It’s been our best year yet!

Jester Christmas Card 2017

I think our Christmas cards reflect a lot of things: fun, happiness, togetherness, and of course pop culture, but most importantly I think it represents how total opposites can still find a balance in their relationship…even in their Christmas Cards!!

Merry Christmas to you all! Spend time with others and remember:

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” -Harvey Mackay

2017 Michelle Jester Christmas Card dec 2017 A2a

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decisions, hope, Life, love, Mistakes, redemption, triumph, Uncategorized

The First Story I Ever Wrote

On this day, the day before my debut novel is released to the world, I think back on the road that led me here. During the first serious conversation with a publisher, they all but insisted that I remove some of the God content in my novel. Another publisher, a Michelle Jester BlogChristian one, strongly suggested that I remove some of the intense adult subject matter. I couldn’t change the circumstances that two publishers wanted different key elements removed from my book. I didn’t intend to self-publish, which is why I sent out many query letters, but self-publishing was never off the table for me. I’ve been involved with different aspects of publishing for many years, so I know a bit of the ins and outs of it. Going with a traditional publisher is always appealing, simply because of their vast resources. I’d also learned early on about the stigma and failure that often comes from the Indie author arena. While that Michelle Jester Blogarea of publishing is growing enormously and includes many successful authors, it unfortunately still has a bit of a black eye of sorts. I wanted to give my work the best possible chance it could have. However, needless to say, if I had taken out the God content or the intense adult subject matter, there would be no book left.

“The best chance your book has,” my husband said one day, “is to be what it is.” So, a year ago on June 19, 2016, I started the journey to self-publish my first novel, The Funeral Flower.

Through that journey I’ve thought often about another first: the first story I ever wrote. Matter of fact it was the first for-my-eyes-only full length story I ever finished. I was eleven. It was short, definitely less than 10,000 words and was about two young girls who attempted suicide together; one succeeded and the other didn’t. The one that died was free, free from pain and misery; the one that lived is left racked with pain and despair.

That girl goes through the following days planning the next time she’d attempt it. She michelle jester blog post 72001thinks of guns and pills, but those were hard to find and even if she did find pills, her luck she’d end up taking her mom’s hormone pills and simply grow an extra breast or something. She couldn’t drown or hang herself…tried.

Then, in the story enters boy.

Yes, omgosh, God forbid a boy comes in and saves the day. But, it’s my story so, it was a Michelle Jester Blogboy. And that boy was nice. Now, I know psychologically why I made it a boy, so I’m happy with the boy. However, just to ease any independent feathers out there, it could very easily have been a dog (well without the strong contrast in comparison thing).  I, though, the eleven year old writer of said story, made it a boy. And that boy taught that girl about innocent love.

The girl who lived and the one who didn’t, start to both transform throughout the story. While the living becomes the free one, the other becomes the trapped one. The trapped one would never change any of her circumstances. She’ll carry all that pain and despair, she killed herself to escape, with her for eternity…left to wander around the earth by herself in a lonely existence. Her own prison, trapped because she never found the love that can free all the pain.Michelle Jester BlogYes, I know, eye rolls. It’s okay, I get that a lot. Rose colored glasses, shameless and hopeless romantic, joyful…I’m the annoying one. Ask any of my friends, family, colleagues and they will definitely agree. Deep down though, I’m tattered in places. We all are. Places people don’t see. However, I’m alive and free to use those places in good ways. I can change many of my own circumstances and I can try to help other people.

Michelle Jester BlogStill, I remember crying the whole time I wrote that story because those two girls represented me, an allegory of the transformation that I saw in myself at eleven, the one that died and the one that didn’t. The one that was trapped forever in circumstances she couldn’t change or the one who could change her own circumstance and use the bad in her life to try to help others.

I’m going to flashback to when I was just seven years old. I had a butter knife and I cut my wrists. It took a few times before I saw blood, but I remember vividly that it didn’t hurt as bad as I had expected it to. I also remember as soon as I saw blood, not knowing any better, I lay down and cried until I fell asleep.

I was devastated when I woke up the next morning and had to go to school knowing a boy there was going to beat me up again. He’d told me so the day before and I knew from experience heMichelle Jester Blog wasn’t lying. I looked down at my wrists and could see the thin line of dried blood; however as soon as I washed my hands, barely even a line was visible. Even though my wrists were sore, there was hardly a physical trace of my actions the night before. I was only seven, so of course I had no idea how deep I would have had to cut to kill myself. I’d seen a few movies with people slitting their wrists and it didn’t look too difficult.

So, I went to school, got beat up, came home, mom called the school again, nothing happened again, except for the next morning when the assistant principal called me in to Michelle Jester Blogtell me the same “boys will be boys” and “that’s how boys show they like you” so best to just “ignore it” speech. Same cycle. Even I, at the age of seven, knew that those boys were not showing me affection, but it does make you ponder just how often young women in the seventies, before and after for that matter, were told that also…and just how many of their psyches were embedded with it.

Now, some may hate that fictional story, the first story I ever wrote at the age of eleven, about the two girls who attempt suicide, or the true story of when I was just seven years old and attempted it myself. I also suspect some will hate my unrelated fictional debut novel, that comes out tomorrow, and that’s okay too. There will be people that mirror what those two publishers’ thought; either there is too much God or too much intense adult subject matter.

Either way, I’m free because I let the story be what it is. All the tattered places included.

…and yes, enters boy.Michelle Jester Blog

 

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THE FUNERAL FLOWER Giveaway

When I first sat to read the final copy of THE FUNERAL FLOWER I didn’t expect to cry, but I did cry. Many of the poems included in this book were written when I was a child, teenager and young adult. This signed manuscript is my first blog giveaway, tears included.

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When you sign up for my quarterly newsletter you are automatically entered to win.

Look for THE FUNERAL FLOWER out June 20, 2017!!

The Funeral Flower ebook thumb

 www.michellejesterauthor.com

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How Anemia led to one of my Best Vacations

A month or so after my last blog post about the flood, I began feeling ill. I wasn’t alarmed because I knew I was simply tired from all the running Larry and I had been doing to help others in the flood aftermath. We’d been cooking 2-3 full meals in shifts for each breakfast lunch and dinner, housing friends in rotations so they could take naps and wash their clothes, not to mention delivering clothes/toiletries to area neighborhoods. On top of that, I still had to conduct business, most of my clients are national and the flood didn’t affect them. We’d often stop at the end of the day by falling into bed, like so many others, only to get up and start again a few hours later. So, when I could barely get out of bed one morning, my being exhausted seemed explainable.  Within a week though, my husband began to worry and insisted that I go to my doctor. He worried more because he knows I am an early morning person and typically unable to, even when I want to, sleep past the break of day.

So, off I went. After a host of tests, I was anemic due to an iron deficiency. Okay, no problem, I thought. That’s common enough; michelle_jester_blog 882127 aI’ll just take a few iron pills and be done with it, right? No, nothing is ever that easy. I’m laughing to myself because I remember sliding off the table and telling the doctor how happy that made me. I am pretty sure my doctor lost whatever respect he had for my intelligence at that point. He told me to sit so we could discuss possible reasons. I was soon shocked to learn all the reasons a person could be anemic.  I never knew. Needless to say, I needed a colonoscopy to be sure I wasn’t bleeding internally.

Super fun.

Now, here is the part I need everyone to understand in moving forward with this blog…I will be talking about the colonoscopy experience. It’s not the main topic, but since I had to do this…then you have to share it with me.

In the preparation process, everyone was telling me how horrible it was, everyone except the nurse who went over the process with me. She was amazing. She said “Think of it this way, people pay hundreds of dollars for a colon cleansing. You are getting it for zero out-of-pocket expense.”

Okay…yeah, I think I will look at it that way.

The night before the big day, my husband helped me by having a spoonful of Jell-O ready to eat after each sip. Drink. Yuk. Eat Jell-O. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Soon, we were laughing. He, because it’s always funny to watch someone flail in misery and he’s good at laughing at my sarcasm. Me, because he was enjoying this way too much and I look forward to the day it’s his turn, which, given his age, isn’t too far off.

I’m laughing again just thinking about it.

Then, the next morning we go through the process again, only this time I can’t have Jell-O. My husband was forewarned not to laugh. As these things go in our house, he laughed. Then I laughed, and gagged, laughed again. I did get some enjoyment though, because my husband’s gag reflex is mental. When he hears someone gag, he gags. This was of great use to me just then, while I faked gagging several additional times just to keep the party going.

By the time we got to the hospital, I was convinced this would be a decent experience. Everyone at Ochsner Hospital Baton Rouge was amazing. When the doctor came in to michelle_jester_blog 882127explain the procedure, he kept looking at me skeptically. Finally, I asked him what was wrong and he commented that I was in an awfully cheerful mood and typically people aren’t too happy about having a colonoscopy. I told him the truth, it hadn’t been a bad experience thus far, and I was just glad to be getting checked out. He proceeded by telling me he would be asking a few personal questions and just wanted to prepare me. I responded, “After today, you are going to have seen parts of me that no one has ever seen, you and I Doc, are going to be close personal friends, ask away.” Not only did the doctor laugh but so did Larry and the nearby nurses standing outside the curtain.

After the procedure, while we were waiting for the doctor to come back in and talk to us, we heard other people in the recovery area discussing the reasons they were there. It sobered us. One lady was telling her father that he needs to just relax, take it easy for a while, enjoy the rest of his life and try to be happy with the time he has left. Another woman was telling her husband that he needed to stop worrying about their house flooding and be thankful his ulcers are treatable. I felt overwhelming guilt. Here I am in a good mood when people all around me are hurting. Not just medical reasons, flood reasons also. For those that read my last post, Flood, Murder and Louboutin’s, you know that our house did not flood, but you also know we’ve been through other personal tragedies. I didn’t feel guilt over the fact that our house didn’t flood, we just immediately picked up and started contributing where we could. However, in that waiting area I felt guilty. Guilty for finding joy.

For those of you that don’t know me I’ll fill you in…I am the personality type that tries to find the good in the bad, the hope in the hopeless, and joy in despair. I look at life with rose colored glasses on and it drives my logical husband insane for the most part. He is my ground, my stability, even when I don’t want it; in turn I am his optimism.

The doctor finally came in, looked at my husband, and suggested a mandatory getaway, even if just for a few days to recoup a bit from the exhaustion and anemia The yin and the yang vector illustration designbefore delving back into work. He stressed “You can’t care for others, if you aren’t taking care of yourself first.” Now, you can’t tell my husband stuff like that, because he protects me. He is also hard headed, so there was no two ways about it for him, against my adamant refusal, he immediately started planning a getaway weekend. In my mind, there were too many people relying on us to take care of them. In his mind, I was relying on him to take care of me.

Once I saw he wasn’t going to budge, I started helping to plan. We found a balloon festival nearby and began the search for a hotel. Everywhere was booked. I left a message for a few of the bed and breakfasts’ around that area in hopes one of them might have an opening at the last minute. It was frustrating and we almost scrapped that plan for a West Texas football game when we get a call from Cedar Grove Plantation. They had one room left available.

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And this is how anemia led us to this spontaneous weekend trip. Also, how God led us to be right where we needed from the colonoscopy to the B&B. From dinner at a restaurant we weren’t planning to go to (because our choice was overbooked), to sitting outside, because the one we ended up at was also at full capacity.

However, we wound up in the perfect spot to watch as the balloons passed by.

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Most importantly, the ultimate moment, the one to which we have no doubt whatsoever that God directed us to be there: at that moment at that restaurant in those precise seats, we met a couple. A couple who needed to hear our story. Not the colonoscopy or the flood, or my accident or his retirement…our marriage story. The struggles and the successes. They were going through something we’d been through years before. I think my ultimate lesson in this entire story is: we were there because God wanted us to be there for someone else, another of His children. I believe in destiny and Divine purpose. I also believe we can miss our Divine purpose by michelle_jester_blog 882128following our own will, which I’m guilty of more often than not. I also know God can restore purpose and direction with a fresh intensity if you’ve overlooked it or chosen your own way.

Sidenote: I was up that first night for hours, sitting in a big bed watching the fireplace in this plantation room hoping to God that no spirits were left flying around in the chimney somewhere. At one point the temperature must have skyrocketed, because I was very warm and needed the fan on, but I wasn’t about to get off the bed…not risking a hand shooting out and grabbing my leg. Normally, I’m not like that, but so far that night I couldn’t get past it.

“Honey,” I shake my husband and ask sweetly, “don’t you need to get up and go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“I know you do. You reeeally need to go to the bathroom,” I stated it like I was swaying a watch on a chain in front of his face.

“No, I don’t.” He turns toward me, “Why do you want me to go to the bathroom?”

“Because I’m hot and I need the fan on and I’m scared there is a boogie man under the bed.”

He chuckled and turned back over. “Go to bed, Michelle.”

I did amuse myself thinking of ways to get him up: gagging, possibly tossing back and forth. Screaming.  Somewhere around prayer number 121, I started giggling at myself; softly of course, I didn’t want to wake Larry up. Then, I giggled again at that thought. Here I am, in this great place, awake at four in the morning for nothing more than irrationality. (Well, really it was all due to a movie I saw when I was a kid, but still irrational.) I fell asleep soon enough and the rest of that stay was wonderful. More than wonderful! It is a lovely place to rest and renew (after the first night, anyway!)

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Back to the story, do I believe God allowed circumstances to happen to direct us away from helping a group of His children through the flood to helping just two? Absolutely! That group was just fine without us. We had a purpose to share our testimony of love, forgiveness and renewing with that other couple. And we all four sat and cried together…at a balloon festival. They knew God orchestrated all of that just for them. In that, we felt renewed and…yes, joy. We also learned, sitting on a swing under a tree, that taking time out, together, is needed regularly.

I realized also that finding joy, in every circumstance, isn’t bad. Of course, I don’t want to jump up and down in front of others going through difficulty, but in my own circumstance I can find the joy. God wants me to find the joy. I thought of the people in the recovery room again, in a new light: One lady was telling her father that he needs to just relax, take it easy for a while, enjoy the rest of his life and try to be happy with the time he has left. Another woman was telling her husband that he needed to stop worrying about their house flooding and be thankful his ulcers are treatable. They, too, were focusing on the good.

One of my greatest joys is in the relationship I have with my husband. People say we are michelle_jester_blog 882126so much alike…but really, we are not. He’s the level headed one and I’m excitable. He’s logical, I’m emotional. We conflict, just like our personalities do, but he’s also the yin and I’m the yang. Together with all of our pieces we make up the perfect puzzle. He’s the one that laughed at me through the pre-colonoscopy experience, which made me laugh. I’m the one who made him gag just for fun…that didn’t make him laugh, but it did make me laugh, and he didn’t get mad at me for it. That’s still funny.

That weekend away was a renewing for us. We needed it, more because we did have so much to do. We needed to see that no matter my how busy life gets or how much work there is that needs to be done, or how many boogie men you think might be under the bed, we can find the joy in our circumstances knowing that God directs our steps. Also, that we all need a break.

Seems to me, the colonoscopy wasn’t too bad either. I lost 8 lbs. My husband said “See, I’ve been right all along, you are full of it!”

Just waaaait…his turn is next.

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Death, Family, Friends, Louisiana, Louisiana Flood, Louisiana Flood 2016, murder, tragedy, triumph, Uncategorized

Flood, Murder, and Louboutins

When I told my husband goodbye in our foyer as the water was rising and we were rushing to evacuate, I felt that familiar uncertainty and fear of not knowing when I would see him again. Any time he deployed I’ve felt it. This time though I felt despair, fear, even a little hurt and anger. I was saying goodbye because he wasn’t leaving the house or pets. My stubborn husband, the one who ordered my daughter and me to leave, was staying. I didn’t have time to process every feeling I had, so we waded through the water to my brother-in-law’s truck and headed out of town. Alexis, who was visiting for the weekend, started crying in the backseat as we drove away. That did it for me and I started crying also. The water was rising so quickly we didn’t even know if we’d make it through the driveway.

Just two weeks before, I was stuck in traffic coming home from visiting my daughter in New Orleans. I could see police and firetrucks ahead and knew it was an accident. Suddenly, out of nowhere I started crying. Not the trickle I-can-recover-this-when-the-light-changes kind, Alexis Instagram2the full on screaming kind. Less than a month before, one of Alexis’ best friends was murdered in cold blood only a few blocks from her apartment after spending the day before together. A couple of months before that Alexis and I found a close family member after he’d committed suicide. So, I had spent the day with my daughter wondering if this would break her.

Now, only a couple of weeks later as we drove through the community watching it flood, I thought of my husband’s grandmother. Something important to know about Mawmaw Lock is that she tells stories that usually inspire two thoughts simultaneously: How blessed we are and how important the things we have are; and how blessed we are and how unimportant the things we have are.

A year and a half ago my in-laws moved Mawmaw Lock from her small town in which she’d lived for 55 years to be closer to all of us so we can better look after her. Mawmaw asked if I’d bring her to visit her old church. In trying to ‘prepare’ me she said “These aren’t folks like ones you are probably used to.” but I quickly interjected “As long as they don’t bite the heads off snakes, I’m good.” So, I dressed in one of my best suits; donned one of my favorite pair of shoes and off we went. I really didn’t know what to expect other than it was a church she’d been going to for years and she’d said it was small. While I was parking in the compact, grassy area I caught myself thinking that “small” was such a huge understatement.

When Mawmaw introduced me to the church members, which only consisted of around a dozen, they not only hugged me in Michelle Jester Blog 667554004earnest but knew who I was. Some asked about Larry, others about my kids. I felt like I was sitting on the front porch with family. Mawmaw held the hymnal in her lap and we sang together. Then the service, a simple and quick one, was about being yourself with God. Your true self. One of the scriptures to back up the service was about coming to God in “spirit and in truth.” Simple enough I thought, at first. I’m myself with God. God knows it all anyway, right?

But the more I pondered over that one scripture sitting in that small church in that small town with that small congregation, the more I realized I had barriers. Not intentional ones, just life ones. I always thank God for blessing me, thank Him for my kids and husband; you know all of the things I truly mean. I pray for forgiveness, for all of the people on my prayer list and over issues in my own life. I’m sure to ask God in what direction He wants me to go. Only, once all the thanks were given and all issues were prayed about what was left between me and God?

I’m reminded of a character out of a novel I read years ago. The novel was about a woman who was raised in high class wealth and propriety yet she finds her true freedom in the working class. At first I felt her pain as she watched everything she owned burned during the Chicago fires. I wondered what would possibly become of her since she was basically left with nothing. Everything she owned, every dress, every pair of shoes, jewelry, cash, her Michelle Jester Blog 667554005whole life was burned and she was left with only the clothes on her back. To add to her trouble she was kidnapped leaving her all but ruined for any decent man to want. She was truly destitute. I cried during those parts and couldn’t see a way out for her. Everything she had, including her reputation, was gone. Soon though, I began to feel her triumph when she started to build a life from nothing. She worked hard and found her place in a community she never would’ve imagined she’d belong. She finds her freedom in the fact that she doesn’t have to hold herself to all the ridiculous standards of society. I somewhat envied her freedom.

I’ve learned more recently than ever before that there is a base side of us, a vulnerable and real side that simply needs the basics. That side values people Michelle Jester Blog 667554001dand life. That side brings every human being to the same level. No matter where they work or who they are. No matter what color or sexual orientation they are. That side is the side that when someone is rushed through the doors of an emergency room the shoes they are wearing don’t make a difference. That’s the side God wants. He wants our raw, vulnerable self. That was the most difficult part for me and sitting in that quaint church I realized it was just pride.

So back to two weeks before the flooding when I was stuck in traffic, hysterically crying in my car after visiting my daughter, I lifted my head to look out of my window and saw the most breathtaking sight. It was a cemetery. One I’d passed many, many times. This time though it was so beautiful with sunbeams shining through the clouds above it that I instinctively stopped crying at the beauty of it. I grabbed my phone and took this photo.

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I am prompted to recognize, more than ever, that this world is fleeting. All that truly matters is my relationship with God and how God can use me to love others through it.

I think often about that little country church, especially the last few days. In that church a pair of red bottom shoes was worthless to them and in that moment I sat there feeling they were just as worthless to me. Also, when we were leaving in such a rush to evacuate, none of those things I left behind in my house mattered, except my family.

Screenshot_2016-08-20-22-58-16aaaaThere are a couple of things that will stay with me long after this disaster is over. One is how incredible people are. Louisianians stepped up immediately, not only in rescue efforts but also to feed and provide emergency supplies to anyone in need. Once the water started to recede it seemed every few blocks there was a station set up with free food, water, clothing and toiletries. I’ve seen the best in people from across the state who packed up immediately to come down here and help.

It is astounding.

Another is how strong we are. I thought my daughter was on the brink of a true nervous breakdown just weeks before. Then I saw her rise up and gain strength through the evacuation. I saw my stubborn husband determined to stay behind. He didn’t know how bad it would get but he was unwilling to leave our animals. That is something I’ll admire always.

The other thing is that right before we evacuated My father in law thought while most of us were together we needed to pray. So he prayed: “God we love You. We ask that you protect our family wherever we are, so that we can come together again. God we praise You. We aren’t asking You to protect our homes or cars because we know so many have already lost and we are no more deserving than anyone else. We ask for Your blessing so we may handle what’s coming. In Jesus name, Amen.”

I’m impacted still with the amount of damage our areas suffered. Although it got close, our house didn’t take on water, but we knew we still had a long road ahead because most of our neighbors, community and surrounding communities did flood.  I can see it all around me that people have a new perspective on life. Through this tragedy many of us learned just how blessed we are and how important the things we have are; and how blessed we are and how unimportant the things we have are.  

And when I saw my husband again I just hugged him and cried.

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“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:23-24

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Friends, laugh, love, Relationships, Uncategorized, Women

Something Simple That Most Men Don’t Know About Women

I recently went on a Girl’s Day with some of my closest friends. Most men (especially those without a sister) think of Girl’s Day and automatically picture a host of women lined up in a spa getting their nails done or sitting around bashing their mates and complaining about their children. However, the truth is for most women it’s different every time (and this is not “the something simple most men don’t know about women”). We might watch movies on the couch, WEARING CLOTHING (most men DO know that, they just don’t want to admit it to themselves), go to lunch, have a drink, do whatever task needs to be done, to include yes, sometimes getting our nails done.

On a recent day together we had a purpose: shopping for a wedding venue for my best friend and sister. She is 47 (older, of course) and never been married. As you can guess all of us girls are ecstatic for the happy couple! We hop in the car with coordinating clothing (not “the thing” and in this case not even on purpose). We go to the first venue. This one had such great reviews so we were all excited. However, being that women are critical about stuff like this (no, not “it”) we naturally inspected every inch of the indoor facility. It came up short on many levels to include the most important for women: atmosphere (also not “the thing”). The venue coordinator then gave us directions to the amphitheater where the ceremonies take place. There…we all fell in love. It was a beautiful sunny yet crisp Louisiana winter day. The temperature was perfect at around 70°F with a slight breeze. For women temperature and ambiance mean a lot (again…not “it”). However, if you are thinking of asking a woman to marry you, all I’m saying is choose the atmosphere wisely.

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As a professional photographer, what would I naturally do in this perfect atmosphere? Start taking selfies of course! Soon my friends were laughing because they know me well and because they also know how to keep my vanity in check. Am I super vain? If you are asking me, of course I always say no. I’m just confident and happy with myself. Could I stand to lose that last 40lbs the doctor has been on me about for the last few years? (More like 80lbs per Ideal Height and Weight Chart) Yes! Am I going to be unhappy until I make that happen? No. Although, I must say that when I look in the mirror I don’t really see an overweight person like many women do (still not “it”). Am I blind? No, just a realist…I don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful.

After a lengthy round of selfies I asked one of the girls to take a few shots of me. This place was great and I really needed a new social media profile photo. a few minutes later, she busted out laughing at something behind me. I turned to find the other girls being sarcastic behind me by striking enthusiastic poses. Penance for my taking so many photos.

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Ok, so girlfriends know how to keep us in check on it all: vanity, anger, negativity…anything really. (Nope, not “it” but stay with me because “it” is close.)  It didn’t take long for my friends to join in the merriment of the selfie with me (aka group selfie or usie). This was fun and real!

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This sparked a special memory for me with another best friend, Yvette. Years earlier, many years, she and I dressed up in ridiculous make-up and mismatched clothes and went in hunt of traffic jams. Michelle Jester and Yvette clowning around 1989 3aWe found quite a few and had enormous amounts of fun. We giggled and sang and rode with the windows down all day. I’m surprised we didn’t cause an accident or two but when you’re 19 you aren’t thinking of things like that. She and I have had many fun times through the years but this one I actually have a picture to prove it.

Now to get to “it”, truly “the thing”, I’m going to flash back again to when I was at another best friend’s house. A younger boy showed up to visit with my friend’s younger brother. Tanya and I had been acting silly, playing music and dancing when he showed up. Luckily, it didn’t stop the fun. We giggled until we cried, as we normally did when we were together. Soon, I found myself in the kitchen in desperate need of water when he stopped me by saying, “My image of you is totally blown.” I tried to hide my smile as he went on to tell me what I’d heard Michelle Jester, Delisa and Tanya clowning around 1990 1aso many times before; that he and his friends always saw me at school and thought I was so mature. My reply was “And?” He just stood there with a blank expression on his face which made Tanya and I start laughing again. Finally, he expressed his shock at seeing me act so silly. He said had he known I was so ‘normal’ he would’ve talked to me years earlier. Tanya explained through tears and laughter that all women are silly but we just don’t share that with everybody (yes! This is “it”). Soon he was laughing with us and we all had a great day together.

Over the years I’ve been blessed to have many wonderful girlfriends. Several are best friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. The ones I don’t talk with often are no less close to my heart than they are when we do. All of those women have one important thing in common, it’s “the thing”, we are all silly and childish. We remind each other that life is not about all the problems. While the problems might be what help us grow and become wiser, the problems are also what can weigh us down and make us serious, foreboding and often bitter. When we are together it’s not about how important we are to the community or how successful in our careers we are or how famous either of us are or are not. It’s not about how serious we want to be taken or how many walls we’ve built to keep out pain or disappointment. It’s the opposite of those things. It’s simple. It’s being silly and frivolous. It’s reminding each other that we can be just ourselves and we are accepted for just that.

For the married man who thinks his wife is getting a little fussy? Send her off with her friends for a Girl’s Day!

For the single guy who really just wants to talk to that beautiful single girl…picture her making a funny fishy face with her friends; giggling and being silly.

This girl…

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Is also this girl…

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She is the every woman.

We are all silly. Most of us don’t show “it” to everybody. But find that part of the woman and love “it”. That’s the special part.

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DASH DASH

Rejoice always, -1 Thessalonians 5:16

And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 8:15

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. -1 Corinthians 5:8

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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Uncategorized

Who Cares Where It Goes?

Aunt Gail and me at my wedding

Rummaging through some old pictures I came across this one of My Aunt Gail and me at my wedding nearly 22 years ago. She was an award winning Home Economics teacher and Mardi Gras costume maker. My Aunt Gail taught me many aspects about etiquette and basic principles of household; from the simple to the elaborate. She made sure I knew how to hold an intimate brunch or host a 12 course dinner party.

Today, I will share one of those tidbits that I truly didn’t think I cared about when I was younger. After all, who cares where everything goes? Thankfully she was an engaging teacher.

When she first told me that once I heard this, a basis necessity, I’d never forget it – I automatically thought, “I’m going to forget it.” However, I never have and now you never will.

It’s something I see people struggle with frequently; how to always remember a simple place setting.

LEFT has four (4) letters in it, so does FORK; so your fork goes on the left side of the plate.

RIGHT has five (5) letters in it, so do KNIFE and SPOON; they go on the right side of the plate.

In alphabetical order = fork, knife, spoon.

The sharp side of the knife faces the plate, so that when one reaches for their spoon they won’t risk cutting themselves.

Glasses go to the top right of the plate as most people are right handed.

It’s that SIMPLE!!place setting ad simple

Now, some of you are surely thinking, “Wow, she posted on how to set a table?” and I might have even annoyed some of you with this bit of advice.  …Oh, but one day, whether you are setting your table for an intimate gathering of friends or an important business dinner, you will remember my Aunt Gail and me.  😉

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Uncategorized

Remember the Good Stuff…

duckie braclet

Most people who know me know I love Rubber Duckies.  I don’t collect them; I don’t want 100 Rubber Duckies dressed in different clothing showing up in my mailbox. However, Rubber Duckies do make me feel happier. It seems silly really, I know, but anything that makes us happier in this life is well worth a little silliness. Maybe the silliness is part of it. I wear a charm bracelet every day with only a Rubber Duckie on it. It prompts me to think on things that are good; innocence, relationships, fun, whimsy, spontaneity, and fond memories. When people notice it, they usually smile. I often get the statement “I would never have expected you to wear a Rubber Duckie bracelet.” – And that always makes me smile.  I hope everyone has something that encourages them to remember the good stuff…
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Children, Family, God, Life

We are Enablers

Who do our kids get there silliness from? Both of us. Oh, don’t get me wrong they cultivate it themselves, but yes, we are the original trainers of the silliness. I remember the first time Alexis and Jaymes-Irish joined forces and turned the tables on me in the busy grocery store. I was on a strict deadline, stressed and not in a good mood at all…then out of nowhere my kids turned into chickens. Yes, chickens. They started clucking and walking…the full walk of a chicken; one leg after another being extended behind their bodies. It was pay back really for all the years I did it to them. AND. I. LOVED. IT!

I’ve heard over the years it being said that one cannot be their child’s friend, i_Michelle Jester 3402t makes a parent an enabler. They say a parent has to keep order and discipline. No child has respect for parent that they are friends with. I’ve also seen the many post on various social media outlets over the years (the ones that get so much attention) that say “You are their mother not their friend.” However, a wise woman, my mother-in-law of course, told me when my son was young that while I should be his friend, I simply cannot only be his friend and I certainly cannot often be it first. I knew immediately in my heart that was the right answer.

I frequently wonder what all of these other parents consider a friend. Am I ever looking to hang out at the mall with my daughter and a group of her “friends”? Definitely not. Did I feel compelled to go sit in my children’s room when their “friends” were over? Certainly not. However, that isn’t the deepest part of friendship. Those moments may be fun, but friendship is deeper. It goes far beyond being there during the fun times. Friendship is, by definition, a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection and respect. It is a person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade. One with whom another likes and trusts. One who is regarded with affection and loyalty. One who stands firm in support of another in affection and forgiveness. (thefreedictionary.com, dictionary.com and google.com).  We are that friend to our kids. Also, I know the term “enabler” in Psychotherapy can be positive or negative; unfortunately, many people who aren’t familiar with Psychology only know the negative connotation from simply hearing about it. An enabler, in the positive, is someone who provides another with the means or opportunity; to empower; to allow individuals to develop and grow. We are also their enablers. I have no doubt that God gave me these incredible human beings to love and nurture; to befriend and help. To guide when they are young and advise when they are older. To enable them to develop and grow. We enable them to face their own behavior and consequences.

_Michelle Jester 3407I once heard a parent tell their small child that his nose would grow if he lied. This baffled me. Hmm… You lie to them to get them to tell the truth so they can learn that lying is the way to get something you want? Let’s see how that works out for you in the future of your parenting. When one of my children have lied I handled it as my dad once did with me; I tried to help them understand why they were lying. Then, I helped them work out the fact that I won’t always be happy with the truth, however, I hope they learn to trust me with the truth anyway. Then we’d soon move on to doing the right thing so you don’t have to lie in the first place.

I’ve also watched as mothers and fathers paint innocent pictures of their own childhood to their children. Wait, (I’ve caught myself thinking a time or two) I knew you when you were a teenager and I remember you weren’t so innocent. It baffles me that parents don’t share their own truths with their kids. I want them to know that we all make mistakes. I also want my kids to know what made me who I am. I want them to know of the “grey” areas; The decisions you make that aren’t against the law or rules but may not be the best one for you. Sometimes, the “grey” decisions were some of the best! Sometimes they weren’t. I want them to know why I make some of the decisions I do now and especially some of the ones I did then. I also want them to know why I feel God’s Grace when I look at them.

I like the word “allied” in one of the definitions of the word “friend” _Michelle Jester 3404(a person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause.) We knew we could be our kid’s BEST ally. To be an ally is to unite or connect in a personal relationship in a mutually beneficial way.  It is a helpful association with another. One who associates or cooperates with another; a supporter (thefreedictionary.com, dictionary.com and google.com). Being firm in our parenthood is being a good ally to our kids.

People have often asked us if we were afraid our kids would lose respect for us since we are “friends”. I can tell you what we believe about respect: showing ‘respect’ isn’t the same as having respect. When you HAVE respect for someone it isn’t based in fear; it is based in having a deep admiration for someone or their abilities, qualities, or achievements. If you only want someone to SHOW respect then intimidate them, however it is empty and unrewarding. On the other hand if you EARN a person’s respect by having their admiration it is fulfilling. When someone GIVES you their respect, they do so freely because you are deserving, not self-serving.  So, no we didn’t feel like we would lose our kids respect by being one of their closest supporters in this world. Or by sharing our pasts with them.

It’s incredible when we can share a similar story after one of our kids feel remorse over a mistake or something they did wrong. Not only does that forge an even deeper relationship with them but it also shows them that we are all alike in life in the fact that we all do things wrong sometimes. It’s learning to not repeat the same mistakes that make the difference.

I can imagine the teeth grinding happening now since the words “parents”, “enabler”, “friends”, and “children_Michelle Jester 3405don’t mix well for many people. In my years of counseling, those words were often the ones I’ve had to help people overcome the most. Now, some of you are confused since you only know me as the Advertising, Public Relations, and Photography professional, however counseling was my first love. Through the years it was those four words that were the most negative for people – especially when you mix them together.

To be clear, we have strict rules. We also have open minds. When our kids come to us with a request to change a rule or relax one, we will truly consider it. They respect that. They also know they cannot manipulate us so they come to us in honesty. We respect them in return for that. We know correction doesn’t have to be humiliating. You may feel humbled by it, but to humiliate your child on purpose is negative and unproductive.

Parenting is tough but I’ve always believed being a kid is tougher. When people tell my children “Being a child is easy, enjoy it while you can.” (Yes, people actually still say that!) I always follow it up with some variation to “Being a child is tough! You aren’t in control of much, you can’t typically make most of your own decisions, you are always expected to follow other people’s direction and you can neither make much money nor decide how to spend it. Being an adult is much better. You can work and buy stuff, have your own house with your own rules, and make decisions for yourself. You can have a spouse to share your burdens and successes with and children of your own to understand one day. You can decide to mow the grass yourself or hire someone to do it. Life will still be tough; however you will just have more control over the way you get through the tough times.” I always add that life is tough for all age groups; either way it can also be silly and fun.

That’s my point, life is tough. If our children don’t have us as a friend and ally in this world, who will they have? If we are simply the strict disciplinary and teach them to only follow the rules without question or reason, who will they follow after they become an adult and our control over them is gone? Moreover, I don’t want to have to wonder if they will thoroughly rebel against all rules and laws because they were never given the capacity to understand why we have them. Finally, and most important for us all, when will they recognize a truly unfair and uncivil rule or law and work to change it?

The day will come that I will leave this earth. We all have a time to die. I don’t want my legacy_Michelle Jester 3403 to be that I was honest or that I didn’t return wrong for wrong, or I, for the majority, didn’t go around cursing at people, although it has happened (see previous post). I want my legacy to be that I loved deeply and tried to understand those I loved. That I forgave as I was forgiven. That I often simply put away all the seriousness of life and enjoyed it. And I knew, without a doubt, that every hurdle in life can become a rewarding lesson if you see it through.

Sometimes, in between the tough parts of life, you just need to be silly together with your kids. Ride around and dance in the car. Get a fit of the giggle’s over something stupid. Make funny faces and take pictures of those memories as much as you can. Or cluck like a chicken with your kids in the middle of the grocery store.

However, sometimes, and these are the most important times, you have to be that strong ally in a struggle. You have to give them the authority that allows them to develop and grow. You have to be their truest friend and their biggest enabler.

A VIDEO FOR MY KIDS

The Sun Is Rising – Britt Nicole

© 2012 Capitol Music Group / Sparrow Records

Photos: © 2014 Michelle Jester and © 2014 Delisa Sibley

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God, Life, Society

There is a Curse Word Lurking Somewhere Inside Me

I am constantly reminded of just how imperfect I am. One thing I do believe about myself is that I love people. I try to be understanding to their issues and hope I can get the same in return. I also try to accept people where they are in life because God accepts me where I am. Now, that being said I also know I fail miserably at this often enough.

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Last week was one of those times. I, Michelle Jester, called a stranger a bad name to her face in a public place with witnesses.  Lots of witnesses and a horribly bad name. Many of you will laugh about this because you know me but some of you will not find the humor. And I totally understand. After talking to my husband and kids, best friend, sister and mother-in-law about it and having them all laugh apologetically (and with a bit of sympathy) I decided to share.

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Before I divulge my glory moment I’d like to flashback to a previous one. Larry and I were playing cards with friends at their house one evening. Soon the stress was on and it was getting quite competitive. I was cool under the pressure yet the moment someone beat me in a play, from some mysterious place that I hadn’t tapped into for a while, I screamed a curse word.  We all sat in silence for a few moments and then started laughing. Well, they were all laughing, I was mortified. Soon though I began to laugh along with them.

My best excuse is that I live with a man who curses. He doesn’t hide or deny it. Granted he can control it so as to not offend his mother, but she knows he curses. He’s honest like that. Living with him is my best excuse, even to myself, because it makes it difficult to fight off the impulse.

In any case that situation with friends was different in that I wasn’t responding directly to a person.

The day that happened last week was overall a good one. I worked a little that morning and had lunch with my husband after he picked me up from dropping my car to be serviced. Then he brought me to retrieve my car. Nothing major there. Made another appointment and, smiling, I left the dealership. I had two stops to make on the way home for an early Friday off; Hancock Fabrics and CVS. Hancock Fabrics went smoothly and that’s where my real story begins…in the CVS parking lot. Why did I go into such detail about my day? It was happily simple up to that point.

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I am backing out of my parking space when I hear a horn blowing. I immediately look behind me and see another vehicle. I wave, apologize for the near accident and turn around to go on my way. Only the car wouldn’t move from behind me. I turned around again to see the older woman fussing at me. While I know she heard my apology through our open windows and I know I heard her ranting, I also do understand nonverbal communication and the anger that stems from the fear of near accidents. So it was pretty bad. I waved again and apologized. She laid on her horn a second time. Side note: I don’t use my horn much; only for extremes. It’s just rude and confrontational. Finally she finished talking/fussing/screaming and just sat there behind my car making sure I couldn’t move, with a smirk on her face. Ok, so now I’m getting ticked a bit off. After what seemed a few more minutes (was truly probably only a few more seconds) I find myself angry. Side note #2: I don’t like to be cornered and I immensely don’t like it when you are amused by it. I open my door to get out to confront her when she finally drives forward and I back out. I am now behind her and angry, however, when she slammed on her brakes it propelled me into the furious category. There was no chance of me hitting her because I wasn’t close enough to do so. Which meant she did it just to be a… well, I’ll save that for a moment… So, she seemed truly shocked when I pulled in behind her at the pharmacy window and got out.  Since her window was conveniently down and she was talking to the pharmacy (which was packed with people) I proceeded to angrily inquired as to why, when I had apologized and waved over a near ACCIDENT she would be a… (hold your breath)… **insert really bad word here** about it (a tad bit anti-climactic without the actual word).

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Of course it didn’t end there. She yelled that she thought I’d flipped her off instead of apologizing. Where I truly thought to myself if I were going to flip someone off it WOULD probably be her. In any case she then added something like “And you got out of your car and approached me for that lady?” I spouted another really bad word as I was walking away when she screamed “I’ll be praying for you!” To which I turned around and hatefully responded with something like “Oh paah-leeease… YOU pray for me. Really? You?” If the look on her face were any indication she was immensely affronted by that last jab.

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It’s easy to blame it on the fact that maybe she was just a bitter old woman. But truth is maybe she really did think I flipped her off. Not so wise to push your luck with a woman who you think just flipped you off, but some people feel protected by their cars enough to do stuff like that. I’m the person who feels comfortable getting out of my car to confront those people. I know it’s irrational.

Side note #3: I hate the “I’m going to use God to tell you how bad you are and what a Christian I am thing that people do. It doesn’t make you look more like a Christian to use God against people. In all fairness I guess I could’ve left off the mocking comment I threw in there at the end. However, as a very weak defense, it was instinctive. In honesty, I wish it would not have been.

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By the time I was driving away I didn’t feel that glorious feeling that ‘honest’ people like my husband must feel all the time. I didn’t feel like I’d just been ‘myself’ or said what ‘needed to be said’. I felt horrible. Then it hit me harder that she really did look bedraggled (see how I threw that in for fun. Yeah, I’m pathetic.) Then another hit: she was in the pharmacy line. Then deep remorse. While losing my temper doesn’t happen often, it happens…and it’s not a pretty sight. You can bet that the ‘event’ is always guaranteed to be a lifelong tale that my family and friends dredge up at every holiday.

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While I prayed for myself yet again in hopes of one day overruling the array of seriously bad curse words that are lurking inside me, I truly prayed for her too. Not mockingly of course.

Hopefully, the next person that decides to corner me in a parking lot won’t open my hidden thesaurus. Unfortunately, they might.

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“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” — Ecclesiastes 7:20

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” — Proverbs 21:2

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” — Psalm 141:3

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” —1 John 1:8-9

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” — Ephesians 4:29

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Some Of You Will Never Talk To Me Again

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When my daughter’s high school theatre production ended a few weeks ago the director gathered all of the students in the theater afterwards to talk a bit before she dismissed them. And I was shocked by what many of them said, including my own daughter. During the practices and performances it was clear that the cast and crew got along well together. I’ve been around theatre for as long as I can remember and immediately noticed the main cast seemed to have a chemistry with one another that is rare. Even an acquaintance of mine that works at a large theatre organization commented on the chemistry she observed. However, that last night, after the final performance I felt like I was having flashbacks of the Breakfast Club and I realized, with shock, that personal social barriers in high school truly still do exist.

Right now you are probably saying something like, “Of course they still exist.” Or “How could you think they didn’t still exist.” But I’m not talking about cliques, defined by Social Sciences as normal human behavior where people tend to gravitate to one another and more intensely than other people in that same social setting. If I were talking about that then theatre group and parts of it would be considered cliques. While you can certainly stereotype a group which causes you to put up a social barrier, that’s not quite what I’m talking about either. Stereotyping which is defined in Social Sciences as a set belief which overgeneralizes a particular group or class of people. It never fails that when I see a nondescript van with no windows or a small window with a security screen in it, I whisper “serial killer” to whomever is around. And I admit freely that the driver of said vehicle couldn’t get my help under any circumstances. That’s a social barrier I’ve placed on myself through stereotyping. No helping serial killers or serial killer look alikes: that’s my motto. My daughter picks on me endlessly about that. Still stereotyping to form a social barrier isn’t what I’m talking about either.

There are different types of barriers: Ones people place on us, ones our circumstances place on us and ones we place on ourselves. I’m talking about only the personal one on one barriers that we place on ourselves.

My sister and I were best friends and I think looking back that maybe it kept me from seeing any type of barriers, if they existed, in high school. I knew our family name was ‘important’ but aside from that we were just the new people in a small town. Footloose was the movie of the summer. Go figure, right. This small town had a $1 movie theatre and it played Footloose all summer long. My sister and I must’ve seen that movie fifty times. Wendy and I were determined to be nice to everyone in this new school unless they gave us a reason not to be. It’s ironic that through the years some people say they never ‘talked’ to me because they were afraid I wouldn’t be nice to them.  Yet others, even as recent as this play, say they will never forget me saying hello to them in the hallway.

I’ve learned intentions are good but perception is everything. I also believe our own perceptions of ourselves are more destructive than other people’s perceptions of us. It’s the limits we place on ourselves that cause us more harm than the ones we let other people put on us. When we fear what our peers will think. When we over concern ourselves with what our parents will think. I’ve written about this before, we all care what someone thinks on some level. In one of my blog post titled “Cheating on my Husband” I say “It’s healthy to care on some levels. It’s also healthy to not care on some levels.”,  but I also say “The problem with caring what others think comes in if you are being dishonest to make them believe something about you that isn’t true.”  If you want to be friends with a certain person but chose not to be because of what others will think, then you are being dishonest with yourself. That’s the worst type of dishonesty and the most destructive. If you are drawn to try theatre but choose not to explore that because of what your friends will think or any other predetermined perception, you are cheating only yourself. If you live in fear of something through perception, yours or anyone else’s, and choose not to explore that something, then you may be missing out on one of the most important events in your life. That is what I call our personal social barriers.

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I was determined to raise my kids to try to accept everyone, unless they give you a personal reason not to, because every single person has deficiencies. Either parents who don’t spend time with them. Or too much time with them. Breasts that are too small or large. Not smart enough. Not athletic enough. Introverted. Extroverted.  Too ugly. Too pretty. (Yes, being pretty is seen by many ‘pretty’ people as a deficiency in ways). Too cautious. Too carefree. Most people feel that whatever they are is whatever they see as deficient. I don’t have that mentality. I truly think I have a reverse. Either that or I’ve accepted myself for who/what I am way too well. However, that can also be a negative. Some think I’m overconfident. Some think I am arrogant. I’ve heard it all. However, to me it’s just me. I don’t see myself as too overweight, while in reality I could stand to lose a small person. I just don’t see myself that way. In the mirror I see a beautiful woman. Yes, of course over the years I didn’t apply my confidence in the best ways, mostly in my upper teen and young adult years. In retrospect I can’t believe some of the things I have done; as with anything though I had to find temperance.

That night, the night the production ended, I watched more in puzzlement than anything else, as several students got up to discuss their preconceived notions about one another or theatre before they got into the production together. And at how wrong many of them were. Just a few weeks prior to that night I took a portfolio for a young lady who is on the dance team at her college. Beautiful. A bit shy. Very thin and short. Many girls would think she seems perfect. But her view on it is the opposite. While taking her pictures she stated that she would do much better in life if she had the “right stuff”. “You know” she went on to explain “blonde, more muscular, had curves, outgoing, assertive, looks older… like Alexis”.

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Then I heard my daughter’s words that night to the other kids she’s been involved with throughout this play, she said “Some of you will never talk to me again and I’m going to miss you.”

Wait, I thought to myself, did Alexis just say that? My Alexis? The girl who many in high school and everyone I know out of high school admires. She has friends of all ages all over the state, country and world. She never meets a stranger. She has amazing talent but doesn’t boast about it. She is beautiful but doesn’t see her full beauty. She’s abrasive at times but honest and true. She has the biggest, most amazing heart. She loves people! Truly loves people! I’ve never known my daughter, or my son for that matter, to have those barriers. They are friends with people who cross all social, ethnic, sexual, religious, and gender orientation, as well as social class. They don’t stop to take a socio-economic study on someone before they choose to talk to them.

And my eyes were truly opened to the personal social barriers we all place on our own lives.

I’m married to the most amazing man. He has been a great husband, father to our children, and friend through the years. If either of us had put a personal social barrier between us in high school we wouldn’t be here nearly 30 years later. I was pressured to not go out withMichelle Jester 2244324 him. Was told it would never last, we were too different. He had friends upset with him for dating me and vice versa. We were both told by many that we were in different ‘cliques’ whether we wanted to believe it or not and it just wouldn’t work.

It wasn’t just our peers either. A memory we’ve recalled through the years was soon after my uncle retired as principal and we got a new principal and assistant principal at our school. The assistant principal called me into the office one day. While there he got my mother on the phone and proceeded to voice his concerns over who I was dating and why it was dangerous for me to be associated with him. I laugh every time I think of that memory. My parents LOVED Larry. So When I heard my mother talking rather loudly through the phone at him and his face pale, I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Soon my mother was there and after that session he had with her in his office behind closed doors, that everybody heard anyway, he never voiced that particular concern again.

I had assumed Alexis meant it would be the way it has always been when a play production ends; you think you are all going to stay close forever…but everyone tends to drift back into their ‘normal’ lives. And while you’ll have learned a little more about pre-judging people and activities’ and you may gain a few really good friends through the experience. But “No”, she refuted, “I meant we weren’t friends before and we probably won’t be friends after. It’s just the way it is. And it’s sad.”

Personal Social Barriers. They are our own choice. I don’t have many; however, I still have some. We all do. I just really thank God that I didn’t have the particular social barrier so many years ago that would’ve prevented me from marrying the most amazing man from a ‘different clique’. The man that many of my friends said our relationship would never last. That man and I have one of the best marriages I’ve ever known!

I know some of the friendships my daughter made will fade away. That’s natural and it’s ok. People go separate ways in life. I’m just glad to see that so far, several weeks later, Alexis and many of the others are still either talking, texting, Snapchatting, or hanging out. I look forward to seeing how this one plays out. I look forward to seeing if some of these kids, including my own, can overcome the barriers they place on themselves. Ironically, their play was Grease; a play about overcoming fears of rejection, breaking personal social barriers and following your heart.

I look forward to seeing if the way they perceive life would change at all. Because, while there will always be, there truly shouldn’t be any personal barriers that prevent us from following our hearts.

 

 

 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18

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Spoiler Alert: I Have a Tumor

I discarded the first post I wrote for this occasion. Just two days before I sent it to the recycle bin, it read like one would typically expect as I talked about our son who is soon departing for the Air Force. However, recently life took a turn that caused the first blog to be less fulfilling, less accurate, and far less deserving.

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I started this new post because recent circumstances sparked a particular memory from when Jaymes-Irish was younger. I recalled that he and I didn’t stop giggling until we were both on the floor holding our tummies from the pain of laughing that much. _Jaymes-Irish 881299It was better than from the crying he’d been doing for nearly two months. I tried to fill our days with crafts, fun and games in hopes of making Jaymes-Irish so busy that he didn’t miss his daddy quite as much. Still, he had a sadness that was much too deep for a toddler. I sure wish I had known then what I learned later: sometimes you just need to go through it and not forget it. Kids are smart enough to learn these true life lessons at a very young age. One has to be careful how they handle situations. Kids learn to either run from problems and suffer consequences later or stand fast and face them now. After the giggling stopped and I sat up, Jaymes-Irish stood up and reached for my face with both of his hands. He smiled with those happy tears in his eyes. I knew then, it would be ok. HE would be ok. And I could see it in his face that he knew it also. PEACE.

One of Jaymes-Irish’s ex-girlfriend’s mother once asked me if everything in Jaymes-Irish’s life HAD to be about God. “To him it does.” was my reply. He could choose to not see God in everything. That wouldn’t change God’s existence, but the point is he chooses to see life that way. After all that is what life is about, right? Choices. I used to believe that it was about right and wrong; good and evil. However, those things are in our life whether we want them to be or not. What our lives are really about is the choices we make. The way we choose to live our life. The way we choose to see others. The way we choose to handle tragedy and despair, prosperity and abundance.

One night Jaymes-Irish called me from his bed to let me know he didn’t feel so good. Through the night he had extensive nausea and vomiting, (however no fever). The next day he was determined to go to work because they counted on him. Not even 3 hours into the work day, he was home. That’s when he complained of his side hurting badly. Soon after at the doctor’s office we found that his white cell count came back elevated and we headed for the hospital. _Michelle Jester 4144Jaymes-Irish’s appendix had ruptured. I have a clear memory of hearing him being wheeled back to the emergency room talking to the nurse. Alexis and I just chuckled because he was quoting a scripture. It really wasn’t funny. We were all scared and Jaymes-Irish was obviously hurting as he quoted it. When they reached the room, the nurse noticed our amusement. We found ourselves explaining that even on that much medication and in that much pain he’s talking about God! She replied, “And all I said to him was ‘You are sad and in a lot of pain but seem happy too. Are you ok?’” That truly made Alexis and me laugh out loud a little. Jaymes-Irish will always tell you where his hope lies. I say if I had to pick one scripture that best fits my son to me, and there are many I could pick, it’s 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Once the appendectomy was completed, the doctor didn’t have great news for us. He said Jaymes-Irish’s appendix had been ruptured for some time and had released bacteria into his abdominal cavity. He was in such severe pain that even morphine couldn’t help him. After having been deprived for several different medical reasons of eating or drinking anything, including water or ice chips, for nearly 24 hours he said, (and this was by far one of the saddest moments of my life), “This must be how people’s souls feel without The Living Water.” We all just sat there quietly. Soon though, I had to find another nearby room to duck into and cry. Even through my son’s fear and pain he chose to see God.

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I reflect on the time when he was young and we were stationed in Virginia, it was often just him, me, and his “vroom vrooms” (He always had a Hot Wheel in his hand.). It soon became apparent that every time he saw another child his size in a waiting room or store he’d walk up to them and give them his Hot Wheel. I started buying two of the same one so that when we’d go someplace he had one to give away and one to keep. Often I found myself explaining to him that I_Jaymes-Irish 881300 wasn’t buying more so he could give away more. I was buying more so he could bless other children yet still have one for himself. I had to emphasize several times that he deserved good stuff also. It took a few rounds of buying more and more Hot Wheels for him to ‘understand’ the lesson. I remember clearly watching him make a decision when we were in a waiting room with two other children. He looked at the identical Hotwheel in each hand and at the two children, then at the Hotwheels again. He looked up at me, smiled with his little eyebrows raised and nodded. I nodded back. He had several choices: he could’ve kept both tiny trucks, could’ve made a decision between the two children on who he would bestow his extra, or he could do exactly what he did: give each of them one. Many of his life choices have been inspiring me ever since._Michelle Jester 4151

For years now my son has been a wise counsel to me on Godly matters. Yes, he’s younger than me and yes, I have been told a number of times that seeking counsel with your kids is stupid. According to them I should only seek out older people with experience. However, God’s Word says “wise counsel”. I have very few people that I fully trust with that honor, (some of them older). My son is at the top of that list because he is wise to the things of God. He chooses to see God in all things. He chooses to place God’s word above his own. He chooses peace over strife; mercy over cruelty.

When Jaymes-Irish was in Kindergarten there was a bully who would go around the playground and trip other kids. Then he would stand over them and laugh. _Jaymes-Irish 881301One day J.I. came home so angry because this boy tripped him right in front of his best friend, Katie. Larry told J.I. to go back to school the next day and punch the boy in the nose and it’ll never happen again. However, Jaymes-Irish didn’t waste time letting his dad know, “Oh, no sir, God wants me to turn the other cheek; unless I’m defending others. I’m just mad”. Needless to say for those of you who know my husband, that didn’t go over too well. The next day the principal called me to come get Jaymes-Irish because he had tripped a boy on the playground. She proceeded to tell me that it was school policy and the other boy had to go home as well because he tripped someone else first; Katie. The principal then said while it was a no tolerance school policy and she had no choice but to send J.I. home, she was still very proud of Jaymes-Irish, because after he tripped the boy and the boy was on the ground crying with all the other children over him laughing,_Michelle Jester 4140 J.I. bent over and offered him a hand. Larry just shook his head and chuckled at the news…”That boy is going to be an ambassador one day.” From that day forward they were friends and the boy never tripped anyone else in kindergarten.

As I stated earlier, recently life took a turn. After going to the dentist (the most phenomenal dentist and dental staff in the world), following a weekend of pain and swelling mixed with antibiotics and pain meds, I learned that my annoying abscessed tooth isn’t an abscessed tooth. I was then sent directly to an oral surgeon by my dentist (the one he quickly scheduled for me after telling me that the mass on my jaw isn’t tooth related). The oral surgeon soon confirmed that I have a tumor. One of a substantial size. _Michelle Jester 4155He hopes it will be benign since most of it shows “clear lines” but voices his concerns that the other part of this massive form staring back at me from the x-ray has somehow deteriorated my jawbone and reached my nerve canal. I will have to have a biopsy as soon as possible, tomorrow he says. Surgery within a few weeks, he says. Then he says: we’ll go from there.

What sparked my memory and changed this blog post from its original text is that after I left my dentist office, on my way to the surgeon’s; I stopped by Jaymes-Irish’s work to have him pray with me. I was scared. Standing, staring up at my well over six foot tall son as he smiled down at me, I knew the same truth that I did after he held my face and smiled up at me all those years ago. PEACE.

I didn’t always make such great choices when I was younger. Sometimes I still don’t make such great ones. When I was younger I didn’t weigh consequences very well and _Michelle Jester 4153I was selfish. God has shown me repeatedly, through blessing me with my family, that he has mercy and grace for me regardless of my previous mistakes. I’ve also learned that making great choices doesn’t have to do with age. Whether we are a toddler giving away a $1 Hot Wheel or a toddler left with no toys, a child showing forgiveness by lending a helping hand or a child being bullied out for revenge, an adult finding God in the worst of circumstances or an adult in severe pain; it’s all in the way we choose to look at things. It’s all about making choices. I thank God often for my son. He has been such a witness to me over the years by making choices based in love, peace, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

In any case my day to die doesn’t change. It’s already decided. The only thing that changes is my circumstance. I can choose how I react to those changes. My life is choices.

I don’t know what the future holds in this circumstance for me. However, I do know that I have peace with whatever it is. I made the decision to see God in this situation; to be blessed and try to be a blessing. I have made the choice to seek peace and joy.

And I am sure I’ll have to make that choice a few more times.
”The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

”The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

”Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

”For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16

”But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

”Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19: 20-21

Scriptures courtesy of biblegateway.com

 

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Not DUCK-ing This One

You thought they had a lot of watchers before? Funny that A&E is ‘cutting’ Phil from their Duck Dynasty show but most nights all you see on A&E is Duck Dynasty playing back to back. Hmmm? Let’s see, A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 1 I smell either a well-crafted public relations ploy or a happy two faced group of executives at A&E. While everyone stays focused on the controversy of what Phil had to say to a reporter at GQ, (a reporter that adds in his article the occasional well placed cuss word after citing the “the show’s no-cussing, no-blaspheming tone” for effect on his own position) A&E is hauling in the cash.  The majority of the Duck Dynasty inventory that some people assumed was being lifted from stores everywhere due to Phil’s words was really being bought off the shelves at rapid speeds (with little doubt the profits go to A&E). They couldn’t get the stuff in fast enough for the well timed, post controversy, pre-Christmas rush. For places like Cracker Barrel who did remove some select items “has now changed its mind 24 hours after this decision. They’ll put Duck Dynasty products back on shelves.” says Clare O’Connor a Forbes staff member in a recent article. (And just an FYI, for all of us ‘newbies’: to purchase directly from the Robertson Family Products you would purchase Duck Commander brand.)

I don’t typically include myself in controversial issues that tend to split friends and family. However, I’m feeling a bit empowered following a host of articles talking about A&E’s right to (and intelligence in) their ‘suspension’ of Phil along with the Phil and Christian bashers. Seriously, A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 2 I can just picture the A&E execs are laughing it up over champagne in diamond encrusted flutes the more each person post another thing (including me) about this controversy. Funny thing is, so are the Robertson’s and their supporters. (Well, I rescind the champagne and diamond encrusted flutes part of my comment for the Robertson’s.)  In any case, many of my friends that are Robertson supporters are thrilled that his words are being re-stated over and over as well; “furthers the Gospel” says one dear friend. The only part I hear distaste for from those friends is that his words aren’t repeated in their entirety or they are used in a way outside what Phil was saying.  Some of my other friends that are supporters of A&E’s ‘position’ are thrilled that A&E is standing up for what they believe are their rights. Most of the friends that are against what Phil Robertson had to say in the article have never watched the show and are only going by what the author of the GQ article or subsequent articles and news coverage has to say about it. As I pointed out, the author of that article made his position quite clear in his writing. So, if you are one of the Phil bashers and are going on that GQ article alone, then his writing was effective in swaying you to his side.

Because let’s face it, in a controversy like this you can’t stay on the fence. It’s one side or the other; you can’t be luke warm. One element or another pushes you off the fence onto one side or the other. A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 3 In our world today you may not want to admit that, because it is popular to sit on the fence and be non-committal, but in your heart you do lean.

Before going any further, I must admit that I have never seen A&E’s Duck Dynasty.  I know, right? I live in Louisiana and I have never seen it. I have to admit I am not a famous person devoted type, unless it’s one of our friend’s shows, webcasts, or music. so, I don’t know the Robertson family’s history or habits. I only knew what I have heard about them from trusted friends and now from the barrage of articles and blogs from both sides that I have consumed at large the last few days.  I haven’t once come across one from the fence though. Isn’t that funny? In our world of staying on the fence, I haven’t seen one opinion from that perspective. Why? Because in this it’s not a fence; it’s a line and it’s been drawn.  And it is not about the Robertson family. It’s not about gay or lesbian rights. It’s not about television networks. A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 4

According to the many articles on the topic if you are for A&E; you are supporting their “rights” yet also their hypocrisy. If you are for Phil Robertson you are for his Christian no nonsense beliefs and more than likely also his family and the show. If you are for the ‘non-Christian’ view then you are against Jesus and the “alienation” of anyone who lives opposed to that standard. If you are for the Christian view, then you are for Jesus and all that follow Him. You can also be for the equality of all yet therefore, as I have gathered, non-Christian or Christian as well. Ok, let’s briefly stand on the fence a moment. Which side are you leaning toward? It’s funny because, when you break it down it seems to place A&E and the non-alienation of all others except for Christians on the one side, while Phil Robertson, the Christian view and the people who truly believe everybody has the right to his or her own beliefs hang together on the other. Why? A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 5

I read one blog that seemed to be from the fence initially, it was titled “Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty does NOT speak for all Christians” (The title of this post changed soon after my blog to “The Gospel Always Pointing to Justice And Peace Get Over It” as well as the content has been re-worded). So I read it, as I have with all the other articles and blogs I’ve gotten my hungry little paws on. While the title initially fooled one into believing it might be from the fence it actually was a guy who claims to be for justice and against racism and not so subtly asserted that anyone else who believes as he (for justice and against racism) wouldn’t possibly be on Phil’s side of the line. In this particular blog he goes on to demonstrate this “justice” by basically calling Phil a “narrow-minded” liar whose statements weren’t “objectively verifiable”. He specifically states “when a Christian speaks to public issues, they must not claim that his or her point of view or version of scripture represents that of the Christian Church unless it is an objectively verifiable claim.” because “We have to be careful about our claims, without being self-righteous and incorrect.”

Well, I don’t want to be against justice and for racism, right? But wait, again… the biggest thing Phil Robertson IS being condemned for is “paraphrasing Corinthians” by saying “Don’t be deceived. Neither adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 6Well, let’s see… that scriptures says “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So Phil did have, in that blogger’s own words, “an objectively verifiable claim” because that IS what the scripture states. And since Joe claims to be a Christian, then he too also follows the same word of God that Phil spoke of, right? So, basically that blogger and several others want to be a Christian without believing the Scriptures?  Therefore, when Joe stated “A person, as well as a society, is most distant from being Christian when taking the name of God in vain on issues that come out of cultural presuppositions and conventional wisdom rather than from the authority of the Gospel. “ he was actually talking to himself. Because what Phil is being specifically condemned for (paraphrasing Corinthians) IS scriptural.

Next that same blogger addresses Phil’s “unacceptable comments… about African Americans” and that “it is disgraceful that” the GQ author “left the farm (of Phil Robertson) with the impression that to be a ‘Bible person’ means…believing that Blacks were better off under segregation.”  What is incredible to me and several of my author friends is how he could take what Phil said to mean that? How can Phil, who clearly stated he worked with the black people, be talking about African American segregation? What Phil did say is not that being a black person working for the farmers (which Phil included himself working with them) was better, but that the black workers as well as Phil himself were happy regardless. He states they were “singing and happy…they were godly” and that they didn’t feel entitled to anything they didn’t work for. A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 7That’s integrity. He was actually complimenting them as well as all the white workers alongside them. I can understand this viewpoint because my own mother worked in the cotton fields as a child; my husband’s grandmother also. It’s hard work. Can everyone relate to that like I can and see it the way I do? Possibly not.

Also that a man, Phil Robertson, who is being portrayed as a country back woods uneducated hick appears to have a great deal more clarity and less loop-holes than many who profess to be well enlightened. Joe, just one example, may very well have done all of those great things he proclaims to have done, however that doesn’t make him more of an authority than the scriptures from which his own self claimed Christianity is based.

I think one of the best articles I have read about on the issue of sides comes from entertainment.time.com. in an article dated December 18th by James Poniewozik in which he states “Now, you’ve got an issue with those of us who maybe just want to watch a family comedy about people outside a major city…without supporting somebody thumping gay people with their Bible. Or a problem with people with gay friends, or family, or, you know, actual gay A&E viewers.

And, once you take any kind of action on that, you’ve got the opposite problem — with deeply religious viewers who like the Robertsons for their faith. They’re going to see it as you punishing him for saying out loud what he believes, and maybe for what they themselves believe, and what they believe is the word of God. You’re punishing him, in their eyes, for being one of them.” A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 8a

I couldn’t agree more. While I’m not the guy standing in the middle of the street holding the sign “repent or perish”, every one of my friends knows without a doubt that I am a Christian. I have gay and lesbian friends that I love! I have liberal friends that I love! I have conservative friends that I love! I have agnostic friends and atheist friends that I love! I wouldn’t ever set out to offend or hurt any of them! However, if a line is drawn and I have to denounce Christ and Scripture in fear of offending one of those friends, you can forget it. I will always take the side of Christianity. To me and many other Christians it’s not asking us to stand in support or stand against Phil Robertson, it’s literally asking us to stand for or against Jesus Christ, in which we believe.A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy 9

It isn’t about Phil Robertson, I don’t know him and again I’ve never watched his show (although, now I may.). Phil seems to be a ‘no bones about it’ kind of guy. I respect that. He hasn’t once apologized for loving God and following Christ. A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy10I respect that too. I am sure I don’t support everything he says or the way he says it, but that goes for everybody. I am far from perfect and don’t claim to be, just as Phil and many other Christians don’t claim to be. Most of us realize we are sinners. Sure, you have the Christians that claim to be perfect. You also have non-Christians who claim to be perfect. I can’t help that. That’s between them and God.

Also, I don’t see all of the adulterers of the world standing up and getting offended that Phil’s comment include them. What about the A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy11sexually immoral, idolaters, thieves or the greedy, drunkards or slanderers or swindlers standing up in offense? Where are they? I know many people who feel it’s healthy to explore your sexuality freely without marriage or staying with one partner. Yet I don’t see any of them standing up against Phil. He included them too, right? He included me also.

I can bet we all make the list in 1 Corinthians as those who A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy12awill not inherit the Kingdom of God. Let’s take a look at a few: Have you ever put something above God? You are an idolater. Have you ever stolen anything? You are thief. Have you ever had a little too much to drink and gotten slammed? You are a drunkard. Ever had sex outside the marriage covenant? You are sexually immoral. Like I said, let’s get REAL! I am as guilty as guilty gets, but there is GREAT news: JESUS came and died for all of these things! THAT IS WHAT TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS ABOUT!!! JESUS!!! Nothing else. If you try and take Christ out of Christianity and instead, insert your moral code you are fooling yourself. Take a look at what Romans 5:8 –“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us.”  says Chase Gentes in his blog.

So, I get to my bottom line: God includes us all. The difference is that as Christians we believe that when we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior, all of our sin is washed through repentance. I agree with Phil THAT gift is free to us all. You can take it or leave it. You don’t have to believe it.

I’m not a hunter, or even a woodsman. I don’t wear camouflage anything. I live in Louisiana and only tried alligator for the firstA&E Duck Dynasty Controversy14 time this year. (Surprisingly, I liked it a great deal.) I didn’t even try crawfish until I was an adult. I’ve lived outside of Louisiana and am known for NOT having a “country accent”. I am often asked “Where are you from?” in my own state. I don’t talk like everyone I know and vice versa. I am not one to use slang or go mud-riding; although I’m tempted to do both. I can shoot a gun, expertly. I have found myself and my companies the target of criticism from Christians and non-Christians alike because everyone’s “moral code” is different. I’ve been called a “liberal Christian” from both sides for my open-mindedness on certain topics. And while I don’t agree with anyone who condemn others; I find I do it myself sometimes because I’m not perfect. None of us are.

One way or the other, you can’t stay neutral in this one because no matter what side of the line you hale from, a controversy like this one spreads a truth no public relations team in the world can cover: the Good News.

_________________

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” Ephesians 2:8 

know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:16 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 

(All scripture is from the New International Version (NIV)

Courtesy of biblegateway.com)

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Best Anniversary Present

It was the most beautiful and sad thing I’d ever seen and it expressed emotions that (at the time) I couldn’t put into words.  It was 1992 and soon after our son was born, my husband and I were in Virginia visiting some friends and came across “The Farewell” in an art Gallery. Larry had been enlisted for several years and was preparing to deploy for the first time since our baby was born. I was scared to say the least and not accustomed to that emotion. I didn’t know anyone where we lived and I just recently moved from Louisiana to Virginia to be with Larry. When I saw “The Farewell” The Farewell courtesy of Tracy StiversI started to cry. I just literally stood there and cried. Again, it was truly the most beautiful and sad thing I’d ever seen.  My husband soon joined me and we stood there for a while and just admired it. Larry inquired about the price and found that we couldn’t afford it. Not even close. It was $1600.00. I think we lived on less a month at the time. It was such a disappointment. Needless to say we didn’t buy it, but on the way out the door the lady caught up to us and gave us the brochure from the showing that day.  I just knew one day I would HAVE to own a copy.

Throughout the years of deployments, having children and moving around we always said when we settled one day and built a house we would get a copy. I had that brochure, worn and old, from the original gallery in my nightstand for years. Electronic Mail was fairly new to “common people” and we didn’t have one so one day I called to inquire about “The Farewell”. After a few weeks the gallery called me back with the disappointing news that they could not find a copy and informed me that it would probably be impossible because of how popular it was. Only after I broke down did he give me a number where I could reach the artist directly. I spoke with Ms. Stivers, the artist wife, and explained our story and asked if it were possible for my husband to at least try and recreate the picture. She didn’t hesitate to agree as long as it was for our personal use only and we never intended to sell it.  I was overjoyed! While it wouldn’t be the same, it would be close. After telling my husband she said yes, he still wanted to buy it for me and said that sooner or later one would come available and we would be able to afford it. He admitted that he seriously didn’t think he could capture all of the emotions and feelings from “The Farewell”. There was just something special about it.

When we did move back to Louisiana and started designing our own home we literally designed the common areas of the house solely around a large wall that would one day display that painting. After several years of setbacks we were finally able to start building. We were elated. Then my husband was called to deploy to Afghanistan after 9-11. During that year I called every now and again to different galleries and tried to keep a tab on if any were for sale and the current cost. I also created a scale model Michelle Jester house modelof our downstairs and cut the picture out of the brochure to put in its rightful place in the model. Following one deployment after another, (War and Homeland) in 2005, we finally began building. I couldn’t find a print/lithograph anywhere. I didn’t know where the rest of the brochure from the original gallery was and there were many galleries in and around the Fredericksburg area. I contacted several and had them looking for a print for me.  However 13 weeks later, all of them had come up empty handed. Every avenue we tried turned out to be a dead end.

We completed our house and the wall right when you walk in remained empty. We could truly only picture that painting there. Nothing else would do. Every now and again we’d try to come up with an idea of something that could fill the space however in the end would agree that nothing else would work. That wall was made for that painting. So, it stayed empty for nearly two years.

I’m going to take a step back; standing, staring at that painting in Fredericksburg, I was scared. I was in a new state, far away from a family I had never been away from. My husband was preparing to deploy. I had no close friends there. Internet wasn’t even a “thing”, mail and phone calls were. We couldn’t afford to talk to my family every day. And while they allowed me to call collect, I knew it wasn’t fair to call them every day either.  When I saw “The Farewell” it truly took my breath away. The sadness. The closeness of the couple. The despair at their circumstance. But also the strength. Her strength.  His strength. Their strength together. Finally you see the recognition and the acceptance.  It was that quiet moment just before.  There was no changing fate. It was about accepting fate. About love and commitment. That deployment was mild and only one of many to come.

Flashing forward nearly 15 years from that moment my husband walked up behind me in front of that blank wall and said, “I know I won’t do it justice but I’ll try.” I immediately knew what he was talking about. He was going to try!  He went to the store got the largest pack of pastels and largest drawing board and got to work. Michelle Jester the anniversary gift 2.5Almost every night he’d come home from work, eat dinner and continue on it. He was frustrated many times throughout the process because when he would spray sealer to the pastels, the colors would fade or sometimes nearly Michelle Jester the anniversary gift 4disappear. But he kept at it, layer after layer. Thirty seven layers and nearly four months later it was done.  And a labor of love at that! It was beautiful. It almost seemed like therapy for him. I couldn’t believe he captured all of the emotion that the original painting has… and more. And so on December 14, 2008 we hung that painting on THE wall.

I can tell you “The Farewell” still sums up our marriage. It’s not quite the same as the first Michelle Jester the anniversary gift 5time we saw it together in that art gallery; it goes far deeper now than it ever could have nearly 22 years ago. It represents a great deal of sadness, closeness, despair, strength, recognition, and acceptance. That quiet moment just before deployment.  There was no changing our fate. It was about accepting our fate. Ultimately, though it is about our love and commitment.

People often ask me what the “key” to marriage is. Michelle Jester the anniversary gift 6Aside from respect (if you don’t have respect for your spouse- find it!) I give several tips: never back your spouse in a corner because human nature dictates that they will come out fighting, don’t put them in a box because nobody wants to be like everybody else, and don’t limit their ability to grow because they will, whether you want them to or not, and either you’ll grow with them or they’ll outgrow you.

I wanted to blog about this on this day, our anniversary. I always say that I have been married to three men in my life; the Larry I met in Michelle Jester the anniversary gift 7high school, the Larry that came back from Afghanistan, and the Larry that retired.  While they are all the same, they are different in so many ways. I know he’s been married to a few Michelle’s also. It isn’t about wanting or being what you married all those years ago, it’s wanting and being what you have now.  With all the scars and changes, the wisdom and pain, sorrow and hope.

I guess that year, when we hung that painting on the wall, I thought my best anniversary present was the painting itself, however every anniversary since reminds me that my greatest anniversary present is the man that painted it for me.

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