Saturday, November 2, 2013

to my daddy on his birthday.

Most kids didn't get the same upbringing that I experienced as a child. I had the greatest privilege of having a stay at home dad beginning in elementary school. Even then, it was still a little odd for many families to have a mom who worked and dad who stayed home, but that was how things worked out in our family. I never realized, until recently, how special that setup would mean to me. You see, today my dad turns 68 years old. Since I'm just 26, you can see how my dad was (and is) considerably older than most of my friends' dads. 

I used to think that this was a very bad thing. Then I realized that I had a brain and changed my mind. I realized that dad got to stay home with me, come to all my school performances and games, and had ample time to teach me to swing a bat or throw a ball outside. I got the benefit of having an "older dad" in all the best ways. Where my friends' dads weren't around a lot because of work, I had a dad who had retired when I was young and could give me all the time in the world. 

If there's a downside... it's the fact that my dad is the same age as my husband's grandparents now. Every time he makes mention of a worry of them passing away, my gut drops to think about my daddy. Where some of my friends think about their parents being great-grandparents one day, I dream and hope to have my dad be a grandfather to my kids. I could sit and worry and fret all the time, or I can do what I'm doing now... and be so thankful and blessed to have spent 26 amazing years with my dad and to have more time together in those years than a lot of daughters get with their fathers. 

So on this 68th birthday of William Oscar Craig... I would like to highlight some of the best moments, favorite memories, and things I love about my daddy. 

My dad is a southern man to the core. We're not talking boots and cowboy hats, but we are talkin growin up in a house with a dirt floor, no electricity, and takin care of animals on the farm type of southern. Dad is "old school" to say the least and is proud of his roots. One of dad's funniest jokes (that he didn't know he was making) was when he told the family how he sold his pig on the farm to buy his family their 1st color TV. Daddy still does not own a cell phone.

Is there a bigger razorback fan than my father? It's highly doubtful. Our family spent our Saturday's watching the hogs on TV or at the stadium in the Fall, our winters full of hog basketball in Bud Walton, and springs/summers listening for those crackin bats at Baum. I can vividly remember the night we won the 1994 NCAA Basketball Championship. I ran out of our house screaming and yelling, and I think where most people in the neighborhood thought I was a strange 7 year old girl, dad couldn't have been prouder of his hog lovin daughter. 

Growing up, dad had an old blue Izuzu pup truck. There were many times where he, Casey and me would squeeze in and ride together. Of course, I got the middle seat, and one of the best memories I have is moving the stick shift like I was really driving the truck. It wasn't until I got older and realized that I only had my hand on the stick, and dad was moving my hand to shift.

Speaking of cars, there's not a time I can remember my father coming to pick us up, take us home, or pulling in the driveway when his radio wasn't blaring full blast. Imagine the teenager's embarrassment of their father coming to get them in front of all their friends blaring "Fat Bottomed Girls," and you knew it was only going to get worse when you opened the door to get in.

My dad is a pretty quiet guy, not known for being extremely loud. He's very talkative and has never met a stranger, but he's not a "loud" type... until he gets to sporting events. Yes, my dad was "that dad" at the game, yelling at the Ref/Ump, yelling at one of us playing, or just yelling. I could always hear my dad in the stands when I batted or when either of my siblings was out playing. Let's just say there may or may not have been a time where dad got thrown out of a softball game/entire ballpark for yelling a little too much.

My dad is very thoughtful. Growing up, there were always flowers on the table that he had picked up for our mom, brought me treats to school when I was having a bad day, and he pretty much always made us "stuff" when we asked him ("Stuff" is a special recipe made only by my dad. It includes peanut butter and other sweet and fattening things - perfect for emotional teenage girls). On my birthday this year, dad pulled me aside and said, "Well, I know how much you like elephants... so I figured you'd probably like this." Nothing loud and showy - just a sweet and thoughtful gift he pulled down from his closet to give to me. When I asked him where he got this amazing bronze elephant statue, he said, "Oh, I picked it up when I was in Bangkok... I had one about 5 times the size of that, but I dropped it in the water when I was getting on the ferry... I dove in and looked for that thing for probably half an hour and never found it." There's always a story.

Oh yeah - I left out a pretty big part of my dad's story: He was a NAVY SEAL and served in the Vietnam War (hence the elephant from Bangkok). As a little girl, you take pride in your dad's ability to be able to beat up other dads... it's just what you do. They protect you, and you think about who they could save you from. I didn't have much fear of anyone hurting me when my daddy was around. Knowing that your dad went through SEAL training and fought in a really ugly war, you take pride in feeling protected and taken care of. Dad can also swim like a fish (go figure). Growing up, swimming was the best because daddy could hold his breath for so long and stay down on the bottom of the pool for forever.

(There are lots of war stories... some daddy hasn't and probably won't ever tell us, maybe anybody. We do get to hear the R&R stories. That's a separate blog post I may write in the future, with his permission. Let's just say that you shouldn't punch the Burgermeister in a German bar, even if he takes a swig of your boot).

You'd think all that training and military expertise would make my dad a fairly coordinated and agile man. I cannot count the number of times my dad has banged his head on anything and everything around. Closet rods, doors, cabinets, walls, etc etc etc. Daddy seems to always have a wound on the top of his head. There was also this one time at Sunday lunch after church where Dad was telling a story to another table about a football game, threw his hands up in the air shouting "TOUCHDOWN," and nailed the sweet Chinese waitress in the face with his elbow. It was funny until we realized she really did get hurt.

Dad has also had a whole lot of falls: down the stairs in the house we grew up in (with the laundry basket nonetheless), down the icy sidewalk at the neighbor's after putting their newspaper on their doorstep, and that one time he was home alone and decided to cut branches off the tree in the backyard... his ladder moved and inched off the tree, leaving him hanging on this branch until he finally had to just let go and fall. He gets irritated with us laughing about these falls, but I'm crying while I type this I'm laughing so hard. Love you, daddy :)

Dad is also known for his little sayings. Here are just a few.
When asked how he's doing:
"If I was any better, I'd need a twin." 
"If I was any better, I'd have to take something."

When asked if there's anything else he needs (restaurant, etc):
"How bout a shoebox full of $100 bills?"

When threatening someone else who is starting a fight (ex: us kids) :
"You'd rather french kiss a rattlesnake"
"That'd be your second mistake today"
"There ain't but 2 things stoppin you..." (fear and common sense)
"You gotta sleep sometime"
"I outta bust your chops"

When ordering food:
"Yunyins" (onions)
"Me-gium" (medium)

When yelling at his kids playing sports:
"Keep your elbow up"
"Keep your shoulder up"
"You're dropping your shoulder"
"Keep your eye on the ball"

When meeting anyone in particular:
"Where ya from?... I'm from Central Arkansas in a little town called Beebe."

When talking to younger folks:
"When was the last time you had your ass kicked by a 68 year old man?"

When giving me away on my wedding day:
"I give her to you. You take care of her... 'cause if you don't, I'll tie your ass in a knot."

I am really good at giving good gifts. A good gift requires a simple thing: meaning. It has to mean something to the receiver of the gift. Dad has given me one of the greatest gifts I've ever gotten....


It wasn't until I got older that I realized where my love of music comes from. Dad has ALWAYS had music playing and not just any music... GOOD music. I'm a 26 year old gal who can sit for hours and listen to classic rock and oldies like I lived in that era. Gimme some Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Three Dog Night, Steve Miller Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jackson Brown, ELO, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Billy Joel, Joe Cocker, any Motown, Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Foreigner, CCR, Chicago... and on and on it goes -- and I'll be the happiest girl around. There's something so sweet and special to me that my dad blessed me with the love of music from a realllllly early age. I remember rides in his truck with him always asking, "Who's this, Carrie?" when a song came on the radio. I'd venture to say that dad passed on his love of music to us kids, and I know that I'm proud to have such an eclectic taste. These songs will be something that remind me of daddy for the rest of my life.

I think what I love about my dad more than anything, though... is that fact that he's a changed man. Have you ever met someone whose life had truly been changed? I've only known my father the past 26 years, and he's pretty much been the same man; however, before I was a blink of an eye, my dad was different. He would be the first to say that he wasn't living a good life, not making good decisions, and not planning for a future that was anything worth having. It means something to me that I've had grown men come up to me as I was becoming an adult myself and say that my dad has been the only person they've ever known who has ever turned his life completely around when they thought there wasn't any hope of change. It speaks to the character of my father now, but it speaks even more so to the grace and redemption God brings. My dad was touched and changed by the grace of God.

That change allowed me to have the childhood and upbringing that I did. I was blessed to have a father who was present and engaged with his kids, who didn't drink or do drugs. My dad was and is a loving and thoughtful father. The change in his life changed mine. There actually probably would be no Carrie Anne if William Oscar hadn't turned his life around... and I wouldn't be the same person if he hadn't continued being that same good man all my life. I know there are probably many people who gave up on my dad and some other people who didn't. My deepest and heartfelt gratitude goes out to those who didn't. My life would have been dramatically different if you had lost hope. My greatest thanks goes to God Himself, who is the only reason I'm able to type out my love for and warm memories of my daddy and his life. God has blessed me overwhelmingly with this amazing dad of mine, and I am unbelievably thankful that God's goodness and mercy hunted my father down and left him a changed man.

There are so many other parts and stories and memories and things I love about you, dad... too many to ever get down on paper. You have been my biggest hero and quiet strength all of my life. I take pride in a few titles in my life. Very few can match the honor I have of being called your baby girl.

I love you, Daddy.
Happy Birthday.

im thankful.
carrie anne

As usual, let's get some pictures to tell more of this story (prepare yourself - they are excessive).

Me trying real hard to try and look like my daddy.

Who has a dad this cool?

First picture with Bella Marie.

Bella and Pops
Best Buds.

Silly daddy.

Forgive the poor quality. This is Daddy's family -- parents and siblings.

Wedding Day.

Man's man.
LOVE that Navy Uniform!!!  Weak spot for sailors

Classic photo op with Daddy, Casey, and me

Here's the typical 1990's family.


"Casper" -- nickname from Navy days (("Kojak" was another))

"At home" navigating the boat.

Siblings :)
Our first picture together.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

who writes the song of your heart?

I'm prompted to write a post tonight given recent events related to mental illness. Since the gun violence across the country has sparked a major conversation and spotlight on gun control as well as mental illness, I've found myself in deep reflection since my career is based deep in the mental health field. I also saw today that Pastor Rick Warren's son struggled with mental illness most of his life and unfortunately took his own life last night.

Many people like to believe that Christians don't suffer from mental illness. I strongly disagree. Some will point out the unsettling fact that a well-known pastor lost his son to suicide and think that this shouldn't... couldn't... happen to that family, or any family who believes in God.

The truth is, mental illness is just another glimpse into the very human nature we all carry in us. We are human and fallen. Some experience physical sickness, addiction, jealousy, performance based lifestyles/perfectionism, greed... Others experience mental illness. It's only a facet in the big picture of what humanity deals with. For some reason, possibly the negative publicity from the media or unknown/unwillingness to learn about mental illness, mental illness becomes different, heightened problem than others we face or observe.

From my experience with working with clients who have severe, chronic mental illness, those who voice belief in God seem to understand and know Him more than me. They are strong because they rely more on Him than themselves. They acknowledge their weaknesses because they find them very apparent when attempting to perform daily tasks that others see as effortless. During discussions about what "mental illness" really means, I often tell my clients that everyone has problems and that their problems just have a name. They are people just like you and I... And they are loved by God just as much as He loves us.

I wholeheartedly believe that God can choose those with mental illness to be His own. Though they may suffer on this Earth for a lifetime with mental issues and turmoil, eternity in heaven provides a new body and a new mind. Salvation is worth that if nothing else... even with a lifetime of mental illness on this Earth.

I'm reminded of a story of a man in an insane asylum who wrote a verse on the wall of his room in the early 1900's. This was later added to the hymn, The Love of God. The composer said this:

"One day, during short intervals of inattention to our work, we picked up a scrap of paper and, seated upon an empty lemon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pencil, added the (first) two stanzas and chorus of the song…Since the lines (3rd stanza from the Jewish poem) had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave, the general opinion was that this inmate had written the epic in moments of sanity."

Frederick M. Lehman, “History of the Song, The Love of God,” 1948

A man who was struggled with mental illness to the point of permanent placement in an insane asylum... who died in that same place... was able in some moments of his life to write such beautiful and pure words about God. I believe God wrote and kept that song in that man's heart. We are blessed to see a glimpse of that purity in the midst of a difficult life.

I get the honor of sitting across from those who are hurting and struggling everyday. I'm blessed to see those glimpses of God's love and purity in the midst of my client's turmoil and grief. I hope that if you or someone you love, care about, or know struggles with mental illness, you find hope and peace from knowing that God can write the song of your heart and theirs as well. I hope that if you also have the honor of sitting across from hurting people, that you choose to look and listen for God's provision and redemption in each of your clients' lives. I said a special prayer tonight for anyone who reads this post who has contact with mental illness in any way, whether therapist or client, family member or friend. My prayers are with you tonight.

I leave you with the words this man wrote on the wall of his room. I hope you can envision his situation, his struggle, and his hope in God above all of it... no matter the condition of his mind.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Sunday, March 31, 2013

it's just metal.

Friday night was supposed to be the beginning of a mini-vacation/getaway in Hot Springs for us. We haven't been to Oaklawn this season and planned on watching the races that weekend. Considering the events of last week, I felt like it would be good to get away for a night and have some fun.

We never made it to Hot Springs.

We rushed and rushed after work on Friday to try and get down there at a good time... Until realizing that we'd miss dinner and still get there later. We drove and ate dinner out and took our time after that. It was raining and just nasty weather that night, and our biggest concern was if the races would still go on the next day.

There were at least 2-3 times during the week and even that day that we considered not going at all. We batted the idea around until deciding that it'd still be fun, and we'd enjoy the time together. There are just some times you need to listen to your gut :)

En route to Hot Springs that night, we were edging up toward Mt. Ida. It was still raining, and the road was just soaked. We came up over a hill, and at that point I knew we weren't going to make the next curve in the road. It was a very sharp curve, and with the rain on the road, our car began to spin out of control....

What felt like about 10 minutes was really only a matter of seconds, but I had hundreds of thoughts racing through my head. If you've ridden with me when I've seen/hit an animal before, you know the piercing scream I let out almost instantly. There was no screaming this night. Pure silence from me... I only listened to Ryan saying, "Hold on, baby... Hold on, baby" over and over.

I thought about if we were going to die then... Or get really hurt, how we probably shouldn't have come that night, how maybe Ryan will just whip this car around and get us straight back on the road like a Tokyo drift move... I was scared that what was coming was going to be worse that the fear I felt then... But the funny thing was that I never thought about how this was ruining my car I thought I loved so much. I just remember being so concerned with our safety and how we both needed to be okay for this to not be a big deal...

And turns out -- we were. No scratch, bruise, stiff neck or anything. My car ended up off the road and in a muddy ditch... With 2 popped tires, a ripped off front bumper, and who knows what else as damage.

But it's just metal.

It could have been so much worse, and we are thankful for our safety an God's protection. I think there's extra gratitude and understanding in my heart this week, too... After being so intertwined with death and grief but also our second look and examination at how well Aunt Elaine was able to see what's important.

I could have been angry and upset at my torn up car. It was my first new car... Paid off and perfectly fine. I was going to put my first baby in the backseat of that car, and I had a lot of memories in it.

But that's not what's important. My husband was in that car... And he's okay. I'm okay. We are safe and uninjured, and our only headache will be dealing with instance and rental cars and decisions about what to do next.

I'm so grateful to have learned that my car is only metal... Banged up metal for now... But there are so many other important things. I'm focusing on them for now.

im thankful.
carrie anne

this is our wrecker, Sancho, who kept us company in his shop for a few hours Friday night

Monday, March 25, 2013

what a wonderful world.

where to begin...

To say that my weekend turned out differently than I had planned might be the biggest understatement ever. My mom and I have planned a vacation on Spring Break for the past few years now. They've been extremely memorable -- driving to Charleston, South Carolina one year and then Houston, Texas another. We planned to do another one of those trips again this year - we originally planned for Kansas City, but we changed to a shorter, closer trip instead. We left for Rogers, Arkansas Friday morning. It was misty and freezing cold, but we made the best of it. We shopped and ate and watched movies and finally had a chance to relax. 

Friday night, we watched a movie called The Impossible. We cried and cried in our hotel room and grieved for this family experiencing such loss and trauma in the midst of a major disaster. We made comments during the movie that sting now. I remember saying, "Oh wow, they're so worried about setting the house alarm, and they have NO idea what's about to happen to them." I also remember thinking, "Wow, I hope that our family never has to experience something like that just to say the things we need to say or do what we should be doing." 

Then Saturday came. 
Even as I type this, it doesn't feel real at all. Over lunch, Mom and I were talking about babies and me being a mom one day and all the little motherhood things that daughters ask their mommas. Leaving the restaurant, I got in the car and Mom told me that my Aunt was being taken to the hospital via ambulance. She had been sick the day before, and we didn't think it was anything too serious. We kept in touch throughout the afternoon, and we got news that she was getting better after getting fluids. Mom and I kept on with our afternoon, and our biggest concern at the moment was getting to a matinee movie on time. 

During the movie, Mom got a call and came back saying that Aunt Elaine needed surgery, and as soon as her blood pressure was up high enough, they'd take her back. Then another call came. Mom came rushing back in the theater, said, "Elaine's coded." I grabbed my stuff and said, "Let's go now." 

Most of that trip home from Springdale comes in pieces... like going under water and coming back up again. I could confidently say that I flew us down 540 where 100mph felt like 7mph. I wanted so desperately for my mom to see her sister again. I remember feeling like I was hearing things I wasn't worthy enough to hear in that car ride... I listened as my mom prayed and begged God for her sister's life, and I was there as she got the news that she had passed away. The rest of our trip down felt like we were driving to another country, and I was helpless as to what to do other than just comfort my mom and get us there quickly and safely. 

There's something about being with family that makes you feel so much better. We knew what was waiting for us when we got to the hospital, but we also knew that our family was there. And there was no stopping that magnetic pull toward them. Once we got to the room, sadness and grief overwhelmed us completely. I hurt the most seeing my family hurting - my relatives who lost a wife, daughter, sister, mother, mimi, aunt, cousin... all of us lost someone so special and unique to each of us. More than craving family, I crave Jesus so much in those moments. In the midst of my grief, all I wanted was to talk to Him and have Him help with my all this pain. I wanted and needed Him. Just Him... and peace comes when I realize that my Aunt Elaine is with Him.

My Aunt Elaine is hard to describe, to be honest. She was incredibly funny and had a great outlook on life. Her life was marked with a lot of pain and suffering, but one thing we've all pointed out is that she never complained. I never heard her say a negative thing about her life or how she wished it was different or better. She truly thought life was wonderful. Where would many would have negative comment, she just chose to see the brighter side of it all.

Memories of Aunt Elaine almost always include laughing. She had the best laugh... that always ended up with her getting choked and coughing and always, always crying. She kept us laughing since we were little kids. I remember the best days coming out of school in the afternoons were when Aunt Elaine was in the car with mom picking us up. Another thing is that Aunt Elaine ALWAYS had a Sonic cup with her... and she'd hold it with her little arm against her chest.

What I remember the absolute most about my Aunt Elaine is that she was my mom's very best friend. As annoying as it was when I was a little kid and wanted all my mom's attention, they'd talk on the phone ALL the time. You'd ask mom (knowing who it was already) who she was talking to, and the response was 99% of the time, "Laine." I hurt so much for my mom knowing just a fraction of how big this loss is to her.

Aunt Elaine also adored her grandkids. The day the twins were born was like heaven on Earth for her. I was young, but I remember it. I can vividly remember her showing almost everyone pictures in her wallet of the twins in those bright colored jumpers with balloons behind them. She was so, so proud to be Mimi. And then when Madison came along, you'd have thought she hung the moon. Those kids were her world almost entirely. 

Not too long ago, I posted a blog to my niece on her 3rd birthday (Read here). In it, I described one of the most special times I've ever shared with my Aunt Elaine - when she saw me in my wedding dress before the ceremony. Words can't do it justice. I earnestly believe the most talented writer in the world can't describe that moment... that just she and I shared in some old bathroom together. The moment stuck with me as I looked at my own niece and realized that Aunt Elaine used to look at me the same way when I was a baby. 

I was blessed with 26 wonderful and beautiful years with her. I'm so thankful that for the past few years, I've been able to genuinely share my love for my Aunt with her. There was no awkward, do I say I love you or not, with her. We openly said that we loved each other, and we said it often. I'm glad that "the impossible" didn't have to happen for me to tell my Aunt how much she meant to me. I'm glad she read my blog about our special moment and knew exactly how I felt and how meaningful that was to me. I'm thankful that I was a little more intentional in my interactions with her given the chance that I might not have another one. I'm also grateful that I got to tell her on Saturday in that room (and will continue to tell her as days go on) how she was the one who taught me about being an Aunt and that I'll never forget how beautifully beaming her face when she saw me on my wedding day and that I promise to try and be as good of an Aunt as she was.

My heart is incredibly broken. Today is not the same as yesterday, and our world has changed in a way we didn't know it could... and didn't know it would so soon. Our family would greatly appreciate prayers and warm thoughts during this time. I especially would appreciate prayers for my Uncle who lost his wife, his daughter and family who lost their Mimi, my Mammaw who just lost her first child, my Uncle who lost his little sister, and my mom who lost her big sister and best friend. It's a grief that feels unimaginable and unreal but so painful. Our family firmly believes that we will see Aunt Elaine in one heavenly and beautiful reunion one day. Our hearts grieve and break and yearn for heaven, our home, until that day comes. 

We miss you so much, Aunt Elaine. I'm still in complete shock that you're not here. I'll miss your laugh and your humor. I'll miss you saying such wonderful things about my husband and how much you love him. I'll miss your Sonic cup and feet not ever touching the floor when you sit down. I'll miss you being part of arguments on what color Papaw's eyes are and stories about how shy you used to be. I'll miss you in hospital rooms to lighten the mood when someone is sick, and I'll miss you pestering my mom and your Fridays with Mammaw. I'll miss you... all of you... and how you always thought that the world was truly wonderful.

I'm so blessed and honored to call you my Aunt, and I'm only writing this blog to honor you since you loved reading what I had to say and supported me always. Thank you for the years we shared, memories we made, and stories I'll never stop telling. You made my life wonderful.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Aunt Elaine's Favorite Song: What a Wonderful World

I see trees of green... red roses, too
I see em bloom.... for me and for you
And I think to myself.... what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue... clouds of white
Bright blessed days... dark sacred nights
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

The colors of a rainbow... so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces... of people going by
I see friends shaking hands... sayin how do you do
They're really sayin... I love you.

I hear babies cry... I watch them grow
They'll learn much more... than I'll never know
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world

Yes I think to myself...
What a wonderful world.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Word of caution to all my blog readers: I've debated on posting this but decided to for the hope it will bring some awareness. Last night, I drove to a local fast food restaurant, and while sitting between 2 cars in the drive-through, a man started walking close to my passenger side door. I checked to see that my doors were locked because I was instantly afraid. I listened to my fear and was on high alert. Next thing I know, this man came behind my car up to my driver's side window. He was between the exterior wall of the restaurant and my car door. Since I was between 2 cars, I couldn't move my vehicle. He asked me to roll down my window so we could "talk." After I yelled NO, he walked away. As soon as I got to the window, I informed the manager... Then noticed this man had positioned himself at the edge of the parking lot, my only exit. The manager yelled and told him the police would be called if he continued loitering, and he walked away. 

All of that to say, be careful. 
Listen to your instincts.
 I didn't feel bad or embarrassed at all that he made me afraid because I listened to my fear, and it helped me stay alert.
im thankful.
carrie anne

Saturday, February 23, 2013

nontraditional point of view.

to be brutally honest, i'm brutally honest a lot of the time. many of you never hear this from me, but a few of you have. my opinions can bite, and frankly, id be terribly embarrassed and ashamed if the subject of my "honesty" heard my remarks. i think that a lot of us can relate to that. we say things to ourselves and to those close to us that we wouldn't want other people to hear, and we may even have a running joke or "rant" about a particular person or group of people. 

Examples could include: the welfare population, religious groups, different cultures from our own, mentally ill, poor/rich, overweight, and the list goes on and on. 

in my social psychology course in my undergraduate program, we learned about a concept that showed how hearing an individual's point of view is more meaningful than looking at an entire group's. For example, any commercial showing "starving children in Africa" will always highlight one of those children's lives in order for the viewer to grasp the importance of helping out these kids. It seems like a simple concept that we forget/ignore all the time. It can be easy for me to put aside thoughts of the poor and hungry in another country, but you can't get me to stop thinking about Myloveda... our sweet, adorable girl we sponsor from Haiti. 

There is power in a story of one person. It demands us to respond... and hopefully change our point of view. I like to think that i attempt to challenge my thinking on a regular basis... that I try to wrestle with my dissonance and sit in it for a while. sometimes, I even find myself putting myself in situations or engaging in conversations that I know will challenge my beliefs. it's tough stuff. 

With all of that said, I'm hoping to alter our perspective by hearing a first-hand account from my FIRST guest post on my blog. This woman holds an amazingly special place in my heart and in my family. I absolutely ADORE her and all she is. She loves Jesus fiercely, and she has always been a solid woman in my life... and she never forgets my birthday : )

I asked Ms Debbie Whittington to give her experience and perspective in a type of question and answer format with me... about what it's like to be a nontraditional student in college today. Our opinions change when we put ourselves in conversations to stretch our views... but they also change when someone you love enters one of the groups you've poked fun at before. 

Like I said before, I'm guilty.
I'm guilty of making fun of nontrads when I was in undergrad. 
They blocked the stairs with their rolly backpacks and asked too many questions when i wanted to get out of class early. I'm honestly excited to hear from Aunt Debbie about her perspective about going back to school later in life so my perspective can change

So here goes:

Can you give us some background information? Where you're from, any significant events you'd want to share, where you are now, as well as college you attend/degree you're seeking?      
  • Before I answer the first question, let me say thank you for your kind words. I have always felt very fortunate to be an adopted part of your family. Being “Aunt Debbie” has been a very rare privilege. Our extended families have been grafted together since I was a little girl! But, that’s another story……I digress…..which leads us to exactly the issue you were talking about ---nontrads taking up too much time in class. For those who don’t know me I was raised in Carrie’s hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I was raised in a Christian home and have been a Christian educator all of my adult life. I am the mother of 2 sons and a grandmother of 2. Recently I have become a widow. Those have been my labels until now, now I can add college student. I am going to the University of Mary Washington here in Fredericksburg, VA where I live with my oldest son and his family. I am hoping that I will be able to complete the degree I started in 1969. I did get one year before I left school in 1970 to marry and have a family. So it’s been a while!              
What made you decide to pursue a college education at this point in your life?  
  • Part of the process of healing when I lost my husband after 40 years of marriage was finding out who I was without him. Who was I all by myself? Even though going back to school had been talked about during our marriage after the kids were grown, it never really was an option I took too seriously. But this past summer when my youngest son, Scott, retired from the Marine Corps and enrolled into Old Dominion, I got the “bug” for school, too. With the encouragement of my sons and friends, I applied and to my surprised was accepted at UMW! Before I knew it, I was picking out classes and buying books. God was even able to get in His Opinion during the process. So here I am, a college student.
What struggles or negative experiences have you faced since starting college?
  • Some of the struggles are what you might expect, physical difficulties, like walking all over campus and stairs. The knees, hips & back aren’t what they used to be. But, Carrie, I don’t have a backpack! I take up even more room with my bookcase on wheels!! But the struggles you don’t see have more to do with memory. All the things in high school that you have learned and you need to know to continue in the college classroom. All those memories, all that knowledge for me is buried under 45 years of living!! Digging back into English class for parts of speech or a formula for math class, that struggle usually leads to more questions on my part. Then you add to that the presentation of some of the material has changed in the last half century!! How I learned and how the youth of today learn is vastly different. I’m pen and paper while they are computer. But mostly, the students have been kind and polite.
What's the most difficult aspect of entering college as a nontraditional student?
  • Being different, what you call Nontrad. Not knowing if your brain will work. Can I still learn and then remember when I am tested? It took more courage than I imagined that it would but God gave me what I needed to walk across campus and go in. Then there is homework!! It seems to take me forever to get through it all, maybe because I do it all, read it all, a couple of times so that I get it. I don’t remember doing that my first time around. It was no big deal when I was 18.
Who or what has been the most helpful resource to you since beginning your higher education?
  • Well, that has to be God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. Besides giving me strength to physically be a college student, He has even helped me with my work! He brought revelation to a problem I had to solve through a dream! Then, of course, I couldn’t do it without the support of both of my sons and the family and friends at church. Everyone encourages me, prays for me, asks how it is going, even talks about my graduation saying they can’t wait to be there!
Were you aware or have you felt any discrimination for being a nontraditional student? 
  • Not really. Of course, when the teacher says, “Let’s form small groups.” the students don’t come rushing over to join me. But there are always others that also are not included, I just wait to see who they are & ask them to join me. I have had a few of the students strike up conversations with me in the hall while we are waiting to get into class. The guys will usually hold the door open for me, even if they have to wait at the top of the stairs. Little surprises like that are pretty nice in the day.
If you could say anything to the "traditional" students reading this post, what would you say from your perspective that you'd like for them to hear/understand?
  • Life out in the world can be…. No IS, tough. College is more than your classes. It’s learning to be on your own, to be responsible and get done what is asked of you. When you go to work, keeping your job depends on it. You being able to pay the bills usually depends on you staying employed. Find out what you like, what you enjoy and pursue that. Life is tough enough, don’t saddle yourself with work that you don’t like as well.


another conversation where i'm forced to change my mindset.

I first began to hold a special place for these "nontrads" when my hubby went back to school recently. He works a 40+ hour/week job and takes classes full-time for school. We often joke about how we'd love for his "job" to just be in school ... since we took that for granted so much back in the day. But more than that, he's serious about school. Most nontrads are. What I wanted so badly when I was in school was speed and efficiency: give me A's, and give them to me quickly. I want to graduate and be outta here so I can go on to something else. What I admire about nontraditional students is that most of them are really there to LEARN and be part of the PROCESS

I think we can learn something from them.
I know I already learned so much from Aunt Debbie and our honest conversation today. 
I hope you did, too.

im thankful
carrie anne

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

thoughts during my last week of 25.

so my 26th birthday is in one week. 

weirdly enough, my birthday countdown started yesterday (at 8 days). this is quite the change from 10 years ago when i started my countdown to 16 at close to 300 days 
((i had a homemade tear-off countdown on my wall and everything))

im a girl who LOVES her birthday. february is always the *perfect* month, and all my fellow february birthdays say, "AMEN!" But this year feels different... i'm thinking that this may because i'm not counting down to be 16 anymore. i'm counting down for 26. 


what did i think my life was going to look like at 26 when i was 16? i guarantee you that i'd have said i would have about 3 kids by now... a successful career, beautiful family with a wonderful husband and a huge house with a big yard all with a gorgeous dog or two. i think i also would have thought that 26 would feel differently, too.... like i was more of an adult and less like a kid.

i can't fully speak for 26 yet - I'll let you know in a week. But for my last week of being 25, life feels a lot different than I thought it would... mainly because there are still so many times when i feel so much like a child. i've looked at ryan before and said, "can you really imagine the fact that we are MARRIED and live on our own in this house!? we get to do whatever we want! we're considered 'grown-ups' to little kids!!!"

it blows my mind.

because in all reality, i feel like im still 16 a lot of the time. 
i still feel unsure about myself and my decisions... except for the added pressure that it's not just me and my future in my decisions now. 
i still feel like i want people to like me and i want to make everyone happy. 
i still have doubts and insecurities about myself and my life. 
i still look at other people and think that maybe their life would be better to have than my own. 
i still so desperately want to be perfect.
i still feel the pressure to go above and beyond expectations for myself from others.
i still feel like im not enough at times. 
and there are times when i still feel like maybe when i get a little older that things will get better.

but there's something different about 25 year old carrie anne and 16 year old carrie anne.

i'm slowly starting to learn that the "Pinterest-perfect life" doesn't have to be mine, and it probably shouldn't be. my comparisons to other people's lives are like poison that only bring me down and do nothing to enhance myself personally. i'm learning that i'm already accepted and loved and don't have to have everybody else's approval. i'm learning that age doesn't necessarily bring wisdom or maturity, and "being an grown up" is tough stuff. i'm learning that humility is my best asset and tool, and knowing that i don't know (and will never know) everything is better than pretending to. 

what i know now that i maybe didn't know at 16 was that God loves me so much. when i was 16, i was self-obsessed with my appearance and being liked by other people and by "finding out who i was." i made dumb choices based on that mindset, and i can honestly say now that now that old mindset only comes in glimpses; however, those glimpses remind me of my "old self" that i wish so badly would go away. 

i think it's the glimpses of my old self that allow me to have empathy for others (as well as myself)... and to let me know that i'll never always have it together.  
that's hard to accept for a perfectionist... and as an almost 26 year old :)

so here's my resolve. 

ive learned that i can either accept the truth or run from it and have it find me later. 
the truth is: 26 scares the crap out of me. 
it sounds like an age where i should have it all together and tied up in a pretty bow. 

i'm going to let it scare me.... for now.
but i don't think it will for long.

 i'm reminded of scene from one of my favorite movies, Man on Fire.
Denzel is training Dakota Fanning for a swim meet, and she's too slow off the block. You can watch and see the video below and how this might relate to my upcoming milestone of 26.

 i'm considering 26 my gunshot.

 i'm in training now.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

to my niece.

To my precious Bella Marie,

I absolutely cannot believe you are already turning three. It seems like yesterday we were all anticipating your arrival, nervously waiting in a room together. You have blessed my life in a way only you can. I never knew the tremendous joys of being an aunt until you came along and filled my heart with unending love!
Auntie Carrie has become one of my most favorite roles in life :)

I hope to one day get to share the special story of how you were brought into this family... from my point of view. I cannot wait to share that moment with you and
hopefully hear you ask me to tell it to you often after that. It's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever heard and experienced.

Since I'm the baby of my family and near the youngest of all my cousins (and also have no children of my own yet), you have been an amazing gateway to loving children. I love your sweet voice, staunch independence, and shrieking laughter when we play. You have put light in parts of my heart I didn't know existed and made me realize how deep love can grow.

Most of all, you gave me a new role in life. I never realized the blessings of "Aunthood" until you. There's something beautiful about seeing your siblings raise children... And also getting to love and be part of those kids' lives. You've given me a reason to reflect on my own Aunts and realize how much they truly mean to me... and probably grasp how much I mean to them.

I can actually remember one instance when one of my Aunts gave me a memory that brings tears to my eyes even now. On my wedding day, my Aunt Elaine saw me before the ceremony in my dress and everything... and started crying. The look on her face is engrained in my memory because she looked so incredibly happy... and so proud of me. There was no doubt that love was overflowing in that room that night.

The way she looked at me is how I hope to look at you one day, my sister's daughter. In three years, you've managed to teach me so much and increase my ability to love exponentially. Your life is a miracle. Your place in this family is forever special. You, my niece, are irreplaceable and incredibly important to me. My love for you reaches the stars and back before even scratching the surface.

As much as I love gifts, your life has been a perfectly precious gift to me... and our entire family. You've not only made me an Aunt; you've made me an extremely proud one.

bella and her cabbage patch doll (Hope) from Ryan and I at Christmas

us dancing in our tutu's at Christmas - yes, I'm wearing Bella's tutu :)

our sweet Princess at her 3rd birthday party


our first day to meet each other...

and so much love grown in 3 years.

I'm forever honored to be your Auntie Carrie.

im thankful.
carrie anne