A Trekkie Christmas | Make it So

We have a new favorite Christmas Carol at our house now. Even The Husband in all his Scrooge-ness had to smile in merriment as we watched this video below.

Wakey Wakey

I recently had the opportunity to test out a sample of Nature Cups, a 100% recyclable k-cup for our Keurig 2.0 Coffee Machine.  As a coffee lover and a mother to a teething 8-month old, this was the perfect product for me to test out, so I was excited to give it a try!

I received the Wakey Wakey Coffee Blend from Nature Cups at no charge in exchange for a honest review.  And a honest review I will give.  You know me, I'm not afraid to express opinions.  But I only have good opinions to give on this one.

The Wakey Wakey coffee blend is indeed the bold, flavorful brew that it is boasted to be.  The aroma and taste of the coffee reminded me very much of a nice, smooth French Roast; they were perfect for a crisp fall morning.

The cups are easy to recycle and they worked with my Keurig 2.0 without issue, which was a concern that I initially had.

If you like a bold blend, this is a great flavor to try and the product itself helps to reduce your footprint on the environment. Give it a try!

I received the Wakey Wakey Coffee Blend from Nature Cups at no charge in exchange for a honest review.

A Holiday Spectacle

I love Christmas.  I love the music, the spirit, the lights, the decorations.  Christmas just makes my heart feel full and happy.

I would have my house decked out for Christmas right now if I wasn't married to Ebeneezer Scrooge.

While shopping recently I came upon a really cool product called Holiday Specs 3D Glasses and though I was so very tempted to to grab them all up, I resisted (knowing I would need to spend that money on Christmas Presents instead).

Less than two weeks later I was given the opportunity to product test those VERY items!  And I can't wait to use them through the holiday season, too!

In exchange for a fair and honest review, I received an assortment of paper 3D glasses, a set of plastic frames, and a string of multi-colored Christmas lights to test them with.

When you look at Christmas Lights (or any bright light) through these 3D glasses, it changes the shape of the light.  We viewed reindeer, elves, snowman, stars, angels and a variety of other Holiday Themed objects.  These are especially great for the kiddos!

My 10 year old (who's at the age where he has to pretend like anything his parents like is completely lame) had to try on each of the glasses.  I put the plastic frames on my 8 month old and raised them up and down so he could see the normal lights and then the reindeer lights.

I've tried on all ten of the designs offered, and while they're each cute and fun I think my favorites are the Christmas Stars, the Reindeer, and the Gingerbread Men.  I did my best to take a picture of how some of them appear through the glasses.  I'm not fancy enough to be able to shoot them well with my regular camera, so these were just shot with my iPhone which will explain the image quality.  

I think these are such a fun idea, I can't wait to use them when everyone has their homes decorated for the holidays this year!

If you're interested in trying these Holiday Specs, head over to HolidaySpecs.com and pick out your favorite design today!  And check out their other products, too!  They have a variety that includes Firework Glasses, Eclipse Viewers, and Wild Eyes Animal Glasses.

*I received this product free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I received no compensation for this review (aside from the product itself).*

The Basic Package

It's almost 4 AM.  I need someone to call Samuel L. Jackson and have him come read a very particular (albeit an inappropriate) book to my eight month old.

What's the problem?

Apparently he thinks Mama's nighttime services run like a day-spa where he can choose from a menu selection and I have to perform to his whim.

And he wants the Platinum Plus package where I have to stand with feet spread shoulders width apart and pivot at the waist (absolutely NO rocking or bouncing is allowed) while patting his bottom in 6/8 time at a moderate tempo and allowing him to slap me in the face so that he can keep himself awake.  And no putting him back in the crib. With the Platinum Plus package you're not allowed to lay him down, you must continue on for either the entirety of the night or until he decides he's tired of being held.  You'll know this by the board-straight plank he'll do as he shrieks at you.

You want the Platinum Plus package, kid?  Fork over a few weeks of uninterrupted sleep to work off the sleep debt you've created and I'll give you the Platinum Plus package with a contented smile.

Otherwise you get the Basic Package which consists of me sitting in the rocker holding you and giving you an occasional pat on the bottom as needed.  No face slapping, no shrieking, and no planking because the service is unacceptable.  Oh and once you're back to sleep, you sleep in the crib and not on me.

There's a phrase your brother brought home when he was younger:
"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

Learn it.  You'll be hearing it a lot while you live with me.

#ThisIsMyStory | In His Arms

When I was in college I heard a sermon preached out of Psalms 57.  That chapter of Psalms is a song of David from when he had fled from Saul and hid in a cave.  He was in this cave fearing for his life and his future and he cried out to God.  His cries to God turned into praise for God.

During this sermon, the preacher made the statement that no matter who you are, this Psalm applies to your life.  You're either going into a cave, you're in a cave, or you're coming out of a cave.

Everyone has at least one cave or "dark time" in their lives. Some of us have several. And sometimes we have really dark times; these are usually the ones that change your life. Not just in how you live your life, but how you remember it. It divides time into what happened before and what happened after.

A Tale of a Thousand X-Rays

Shortly after I heard this sermon preached, I entered into the Frequent Flyer Program at my Doctor's Office (my apologies to the nurses at Ty's schools, it would seem he comes by it honestly).  I can't remember the order that my injuries or ailments happened, but I remember that it all began in November of 2001.  One visit was for a shoulder that I had hurt in horseplay with friends.  Another was for a cold turned infection.  And then one morning when I was rolling over to turn off my alarm clock, I experienced a loud pop and a shock of pain in my chest, just above my heart.

I had several doctor visits including x-rays but there was some trouble getting a good view on the issue.  Thankfully my Doctor wasn't a doctor that was content to give his best guess, you could tell that he wanted to make sure that he knew what the issue was.  On February 27th of that year, my grandfather's birthday, I had a bone-scan that revealed a bright, vibrant unknown something in the same area that I had experienced the pain and popping.  Right over my heart.

I asked the tech what that was usually indicative of.  If he said anything other than the word 'tumor', I never heard it.  I spent the rest of the day and that night in a terrible emotional state.  There were tears and prayers and prayers and tears.  It was the most alone I had ever felt.  I knew God was hearing my prayers, but I need confirmation that he was listening.

The following day, on my sister's birthday, my doctor called me personally to let me know that it wasn't a tumor, it was arthritis.  Apparently one side of my ribs had grown slightly longer than the other side which left my sternum off-set at an angle.  The loud popping noise I felt when I had rolled over to turn off my alarm clock was one of my ribs dislocating.  He also advised me that this may be an issue I might deal with in the future as well, and he was right.  The area that showed up on the bone-scan was arthritis surrounding the dislocated rib.

And that day, with a much lighter heart, I cried and I prayed and I prayed and I cried.  And I was grateful that I wouldn't have to shave my head or lose my hair.  (It would seem that one's mind tends to get carried away in these situations...)

I thought my Doctors' visits were finally coming to a conclusion, but in March I had a four-wheeler roll back on me as I was crossing a creek that had been rutted up pretty badly.  The next day my left hand was several glove-sizes bigger and the skin was a variety of colors, so off to the Doctor I went.  Problem was, I had another doctor appointment that day with a back specialist in the opposite direction.  I was examined, x-rayed, and eventually casted just in time to leave there, go home, and get in the car with my mom who was taking me to the other doctor appointment.

That doctor, upon checking out my brand new blue cast and viewing my recent history and issues, recommended that I be locked into a padded room for my own protection.

A Life Changed

Just as my own medical problems started to subside, we received a phone call early one Sunday morning.  My cousin Jerrid, who was my age, had been in a wreck and had been life-flighted to Wichita, KS.  As information would unfold, he had been driving too fast in a souped up car and less-than-ideal road conditions.  When he lost control the vehicle vaulted end-over-end numerous times.  He was ejected onto the hood of the car as it had vaulted.  His back was broken, we knew this, but we didn't know what the long-term result of that injury would be but we were hopeful.

Since we were two states away, we waited anxiously for phone calls and updates.  While fearing for his life, I also began to fear for Jerrid's future.  What would life look like for him on the other side of this?  His life was irrevocably changed.  And then we got a call that gave hope to the situation.

"Jerrid was saved."

My precious grandmother sat down with him and was able to lead him to The Lord.

Once Jerrid was in more stable condition, I was able to talk to him on the phone.  We hadn't talked in ages.  Though we were close in age and enjoyed each other on the occasions that we were both at our grandparents house for the holidays at the same time (something that happened less and less often as we got older), we had never maintained a closeness.

Thankfully, that would change.

A Cousin is a Forever Friend

Following his wreck, we talked on the phone daily.  He would tell me about his day at the hospital and what flavors of yogurt he had that day.  Cherry was his favorite.  He promised me that when we made it up to see him he would save a cup of cherry yogurt just for me, I didn't tell him that I hated yogurt.  It was during this time that he started calling me 'Turbo'.  Daily he would tell me he loved me, and I the same.  The weekend after his wreck, we were able to drive from south-central Arkansas through Oklahoma and up to Wichita.  When we got there I was given the biggest smile, a strained hug...and a cup of cherry yogurt that I ate with a happy heart and without complaint.

I slept on the floor of the hospital room that night.  If you could say I slept.  He had a scare earlier that day before we got there.  His lungs had filled with fluid and one of his chest tubes had come out and it had obviously been a serious situation.  There was a little device on the side of the bed next to where I was sleeping that was measuring the fluid being pulled from his lungs.  I stared at it all night long and listened for the sound of his breathing.  When he got quiet, I got worried.

We spent the weekend at the hospital with him and I was grateful to see him smile and laugh and put on a brave face.  But it was challenging to leave.

We continued to talk almost daily and my plans began to change around how I could help him.  He was eventually released from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility that taught him the ins and outs of his life after the wreck in his new Kawasaki Green wheelchair (his favorite color).  He was focused on getting back on the right path.  He had never completed high school and so he set his hopes on getting his GED and wanted to go to college after that.  He just wasn't sure what he wanted to do.  My major was Computer Information Systems and he really started to think in that direction.  His whole life he had been taking things apart just to see how they worked, he was innately curious. More than once he mentioned me coming to Kansas.  He would be finishing his GED around the same time I finished college.  I could work on my Masters at the same time that he earned a degree and then we could go into business together.

That conversation kept coming up.  The closer I got to graduation, the more I considered it.  It would be a great new adventure for me out on my own, but it would also help him.  It would give him some independence while still having family to help him.

A Summer of Memories

In the summer of 2003, I made a decision that was so unlike me.  Little Miss Responsible quit her job, gave up her apartment, and drove to Kansas for the summer.  It was one of the best decisions that I'll never regret.  My aunt and uncle will never know how deeply I appreciate and how grateful I am to them that they allowed me to stay with them that summer.  As a self-focused twenty-something I never took the time to adequately express my gratitude to them.  Now I'll never be able to put words to it.

The trip was around 550 miles, one-way.  If I remember right, it took somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 or 12 hours at that time.  In the weeks leading up to my summer adventure I had burned more than a dozen CDs of music.  I made the drive with my music turned up almost as loudly as I was singing.  I was within two hours of my destination when I started to think about what I wanted that summer to mean to me.  I wanted to change lives.  I wanted everyone I met to feel like they were a better person because they met me.  I wanted to add value to the lives of others.

I don't know that I was successful because I was the recipient of those things.  Through my family I made friends with people throughout the community.  I spent hours just driving around Kansas and falling in love with the openness and the beauty of where they lived.  I was able to spend valuable time with my aunt, my uncle, and my cousins.  I made memories that I would never have had otherwise.  I had intended, when I started planning the trip, to go to Kansas and explore the idea of Grad School and helping Jerrid through the next phase of his life.  By the end of summer, I could tell that Jerrid would be just fine whether I was there or not.  He had friends and he had a girlfriend and he had a support system.  I could still consider Grad School (I still had another year left to complete my degree), but it wasn't a decision I would have to make right then.

Some Unexpected News

As I came back to Arkansas and started back to school, Jerrid and I still kept in contact regularly.  He started college and seemed to be making new friends.  We both seemed to be getting busier and busier with college.  Instead of talking a few times a week, it was often once a week.  And then it was every few weeks.  And then it was December and it had been a month since I'd last talked to Jerrid.  I was driving home from visiting a college friend that had graduated earlier that year.  It was an ungodly hour and I kept thinking about Jerrid.  I needed to call him.  I was tempted to call him right then.  It had been too long since we talked and the last time I had talked to him he was devastated because his girlfriend had broken up with him.  I almost called him in the middle of the night.  I knew there was a good chance he would still be awake (he was very much a night owl) and on the off chance that I woke him up, I was sure he would forgive me.  But I didn't.  I didn't want to chance waking him up.

The next morning, on Sunday, December 14, 2003, I got up and was getting ready for church like I always do.  My parents had been up and around.  I didn't realize at the time that they weren't getting ready for church.  It would have struck me as odd if I'd realized it.  When I came downstairs my Daddy stopped me and with a serious face told me he needed to talk to me.

Now this did strike me as odd.  My fun-loving Daddy is seldom serious, which is why I initially suspected that he was about to pull some joke or prank on me.  When he told me that Jerrid had killed himself, it took a moment for it to sink in.  My initial thought was, 'That's not funny, why would he joke about that!'  And then I knew he would never joke about that.

The Great Divide

And my heart stopped and my blood stilled and a dividing line was written across the pages of my life.

That was a moment that separated time.

Everything that happened before that moment wasn't just in a different chapter in my life, suddenly it felt like it was a different book.  That was all before Jerrid died.  I don't fully remember what happened in those particular moments almost twelve years ago.  What I do remember, and what this entire story has been all about, is what happened in the moments after my initial shock and response.

The Calm in the Storm

When I went back upstairs and into my room, I shut the door and I knelt at a chest that was at the foot of my bed.  I closed my eyes and I laid my head down on the chest and I wept.  There were no words.  I couldn't express any thoughts even in my head and so I just opened my heart up to God.  And in the silence and the depth of pain, I very clearly and very physically felt arms around me.  I'll never be able to explain the experience in any way that does it justice.  I was in His lap.  Had I opened my eyes at that moment, I would have fully expected to find myself in the lap of God with His arms wrapped around me.  As the hurt poured out of my heart, a comfort was being poured into it, too.

The year before when I cried and prayed and prayed and cried I had longed to know that God was listening to my words.  Here, in that moment, I had no words but there was absolutely no room for doubt that God heard everything my soul was pouring out to Him.

By grace alone, I composed myself and dressed in a t-shirt I had made and gotten signed by my Kansas friends and I went to church.  I couldn't tell you what that sermon was about that day.  I just remember the hugs and the hands held and the love and support given to me.  It was God's embrace in human form.

The Aftermath

It's been almost twelve years since we said goodbye to Jerrid.

I sobbed through the service.  My thoughtful aunt gave me one of his sweatshirts to hold and hug.  I slept with it almost every night for many years.  

There are some songs that I can't hear because it just hurts to think of everything Jerrid missed out on. All the promise and potential that he had ahead of him is gone.  And that hurts.  

But he's in God's Arms now.  And there is peace there and there is comfort there and there is love there. I know this. I've experienced this. I am both forever grateful for and forever changed by this.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone.

You are not broken.  You are not a burden.  You are a valuable, wonderful person.  And each and every person has a future ahead of them that is worth living.  Life is hard and life hurts.  But it gets better.  It gets SO much better.

We want you there, in your future, to see that.  We want to share our joys with you and we want you to know that you will also have joys to share with us.  You don't have to suffer alone, we can share this together.

#ThisIsMyStory | Setting the Stage

For the most part, ever since I started blogging I've been an open book.  I don't often candy-coat or filter what I post on these pages, I am who I am, my life is my life, and my family is my family.  I don't measure any of it up to anyone else's standards.  I'm a real person and it's important to me that everyone know that I live a real life, not some illusion where my life seems more perfect than it actually is.  A perfect life is a boring life.

Mine has been far from boring.

I've been challenged to share my story.  The series that we're covering at church right now is called "This is My Story" and in it, we're studying others in scripture who have shared their story of how Christ changed their lives.  In this series we're being challenged to share our story and how Christ has worked in and changed our lives.

This presents a couple of problems for me.

Problem #1

There's not just one story where Christ has worked in or changed my life.  His fingerprints are on my whole life.  I was raised in a Christian home, so the path that lead me to The Lord began long before my own life began.

Problem #2

I'm not really a narrow-it-down kind of girl.  If I'm going to tell a story, I'm going to tell the whole story.  Which is why my original Life Story (Learning to Live With Me) was 15 pages long and more than 7,500 words.  If you read that blog before, pretend you haven't because there's probably going to be a bit of plagiarism going on in some parts of this.  (Hey, it's my work, I can steal it if I want to!)

Problem #3

I've not really 'put myself out there' in a big way in the past five years.  And while I've never written about it directly, I know that in order to accurately tell parts of my life story, at some point I will need to include details about this.  Like it or not—it's now a part of my story.  It will just take a great deal of thought and prayer to be able to put the old hurt into words that don't cause new hurt.  

So while this is something I've been convicted to do for the past few weeks...it is also something that will take some time and some thought and definitely some prayer.  And I'm going to try to keep my words and heart open because it's not always the events or stories that we expect God to use that actually resonate with others in a way that benefits His plans.

My intention is to post 'chapters' of My Story, likely out of order, as I feel lead to.  The first one I have felt compelled to write is a very painful story for me.  Which is part of why I keep putting it off, that post will be authored with many tears.  But I know that God uses the darkness in our lives to illuminate the bright.  And that's why I'll be sharing that story soon.

Stay tuned...

The Great Escape

Do you ever have one of those moments where you stop and think, "Did that really just happen?  Really?"

One of those moments when you wonder if you're in a TV sitcom and basically the whole world forgot to tell you?

That feels like my life more often than not.

Especially last night.  And I've been told that I owe the world a blog with the details that surround this little Facebook post from 2:30 this morning.

I'm pretty sure that when Jason answered his cell phone at 1:30 AM, the last thing he was expecting me to say on the other end was "Come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."
Posted by Ashley Harris on Sunday, October 25, 2015

It all started at midnight when I got up with the baby.  I'm not sure what's going on but this kid has gone from sleeping through the night with no problems (as long as he's not teething, congested, or dealing with an earache) to being up every two hours.  Last night was my night to get up first so I got up with him at 10:30 briefly and then again at midnight.  This one was not brief.  By 1:30 AM I had rocked the baby to sleep and laid him down four times.  And all four times he immediately woke up.  So I'm nearing my wits end when I hear what I suspect is my husband creeping down the hall.  Except he's being MUCH quieter than normal.  And except he never showed up.  So I continued to rock.  And then I heard footsteps in the hall again.  Much lighter this time so I wondered if it was Ty trying to keep from waking his brother.

The only problem with either scenario is that neither of my boys are this quiet.  And neither boy showed up at the door.  So, again, I continue to rock.

And then I heard a sound that I became all too familiar with last fall.  We had rodents of some sort that moved into the attic during the cold months last year.  Apparently when you keep gerbil food in the attic and the rodents looking for a warm place to bed down for the winter, your attic gets 5 star reviews from local pests.  I cringed as I heard what was obviously a rodent, whether squirrel or rat or whatever.  And then it dawned on me that the noise wasn't coming from above me, it was much nearer to the ground.

Obviously they must be in the walls because Link, the cat, is not a good host to any other type of animal in his home.  Which is why our recent addition, Sebastian, is kept behind closed doors when we're not home in a room that the cat is not allowed to go into.

But then I heard it again and it very distinctly sounded like it was coming from under the twin bed in Beckett's room.

I slowly crept up out of the rocking chair with the baby still in my arms and turned the flashlight on my cell phone on so that I could peek under the bed.

And then I saw them.

Two little eyes.

They stopped and looked at me.

"Well crud," I thought to myself.  My night just got a whole lot more complicated.  And it was much bigger than a small little field mouse that I would have considered the lesser of evils.  Obviously this was a rat.

And then it stood up on its back legs and I realized it wasn't a rat, and it wasn't just any rodent.  It was Sebastian.

"Double crud," I thought.  Letting the cat solve the problem obviously wasn't going to be a solution.  I would have to catch it.

I held the my phone with the light still on the hamster (who was doing a fantastic "deer in the headlights" impersonation) and dialed up The Husband.

"Hey Baby," he answered, "what's wrong?"

"I need you to come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."

"Wait, what?" he responded.

I didn't know how to be clearer.  "I need you to come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."

A minute later he came in the baby's room to find me crouched on the floor with the baby in my arms and my cell phone aimed under the bed.

"Take him in the living room and close the door," I told him.  I had this.  I knew I had this.  I've caught many a rodent in my day.  But I was sure hoping it wouldn't take an hour.  Fortunately, I had a terrified little hamster in my hands in just a matter of about five minutes.  And a wide-awake baby back in my arms in less than ten.

When I went to return Sebastian to his cage (which was on the top of a chest of drawers) I found the door to the cage wide open.  Either we have a Hamster Houdini on our hands or we have a little boy that wasn't careful to make sure the cage wasn't latched well.

Back into the cage he went and back to the rocking chair I went.

Finally at close to 2:30 I was able to get the baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.  But by that time my brain was wide awake.  I got back in the bed and my husband looked at me as if he was trying to decide if the whole hamster thing had been a dream.  I chatted away, speculating as to if the cage wasn't shut at all or if the latch just didn't get secured well.  The more I thought of it, and the more I heard Link's little jingle bell zooming around the room, the more I began to worry.  A cat is not a merciful creature when it has a live toy to play with.  They are also not worried about mess, either.  So I started worrying about how I was going to secure the cage.

I finally decided that if I had a clasp, I could put it around the door and the cage so that if it came unlatched, it couldn't swing open to allow the hamster out.  But where would I get one of those at almost 3:00 a.m.

And then I thought of the dog leash.  So up I was, and out to the garage I went.  I had just seen the leash a few days ago so I knew it was out there somewhere.  After searching everywhere I could, I snuck back into the house.

"Jason," I whispered.

"What is it?" he asked groggily.

"Where's the dog leash?"

"What?"  He was still groggy.

"Where's the dog leash?" I repeated.

"Why do you need the dog leash?" he asked.

"For the hamster."

He almost questioned it again.  Either he was too tired or he realized who he was talking to, he climbed out of bed and went out to the garage and retrieved the leash for me.  I then took it to Ty's room where I secured the gate closed.

I finally made it back to sleep at around 3:30.  And soon-after Jason was getting up with the baby.  Fortunately for him, his shift is never quite as exciting as mine.  But hey, I guess we at least got a story out of it.

Sebastian and The Great Escape.