Friday, October 10, 2014

For Jagger.

It's a devastating day for our family. We've lost Jagger. I find myself needing to write, as if writing is therapy for this therapist. We've lost a member of our family, and my brother has lost his best companion. Jagger seems like more than a dog today, and I feel the need to honor his place in our lives over the past 4 years. Four years seems way too short, but there's comfort in knowing that dogs live in the moment; and the moments Jagger had with Casey have been wonderful.

People who have dogs (and have lost dogs) will understand the magnitude of what today means. My heart breaks for my brother, who has raised and trained this dog from a puppy. Jagger was Casey's very best friend, especially when life was terrible and confusing. Jagger was the constant. What is hardest is the sudden and tragic loss of this great dog. Jagger was hit by a car last night but managed to walk back to the front steps of Casey's house to pass away. It speaks so much to how dogs, like humans, need to go home and to a safe place in times of pain. It also speaks to the inseparable bond Jagger had with Casey to get to him one last time.

Jagger was a beautiful, stunning German Shepherd. Watching him run and play was a truly gorgeous sight.

He loved his orange ball, and there was hardly a moment when he didn't have it in his mouth. 

Jagger howled at any siren that passed by the house. His inner wolf definitely came out. 

Jaggy did not like the lake. We took him once, and he was not a fan of being in that water. He crawled and climbed up Casey every time we jumped in.

He was gentle enough to play with toddlers, and Bella grew up playing alongside him. 

He was obedient. He loved to please my brother. 
Jagger was extremely intelligent. He was trained easily and quickly. He was the first dog I had ever seen sit in the yard for 30 minutes until Casey said he was free. He was impressive.

Jagger patiently and graciously played with his cousin, Benson, for the past 9 months. A sign of a truly amazing dog is to put up with a puppy literally hanging from your fur with his teeth and never snap or attack. 

Jagger loved my brother. If you have a pet, you know this bond. They wrestled, played, walked, rode, fetched, chilled, trained, and enjoyed life together. The love of a dog is unconditional and free of judgment. Jagger's place in Casey's life has been indescribable and necessary over the past 4 years. 

When we lost our best friend, Keely, in 2009, the pastor at the funeral asked about animals being in heaven. He proposed that if there was, Keely would be taking care of them. In my last words to Jagger this morning, I said if there's anybody I'd want to take care of him now, it's Keely Ann. He's in capable and gentle hands and is now loved on both heaven and earth.

Our family hurts today. I can count the times I've seen my dad cry on one hand, and today is one of them. We're asking why. We're confused. We're hurt. We're sad. We've got that gut-wrenching pain and sorrow in our hearts of not understanding why this had to happen. We appreciate your prayers and warm thoughts, especially for my brother who lost his dear friend and is experiencing a whirlwind of emotions today.

What a special and meaningful gift you have been the past 4 years. Who knew when you came in as a little, black furball that you would grow into such a loving, beautiful dog. You loved my brother unconditionally and always sought out to please him. You loved my dog and played with him, even when he stole your ball and got on your nerves. You took care of and protected someone very precious to me for over 4 years, and for that, I am truly thankful. More present than anyone else in his life, even friends and family, you were there for him. Our family will miss you and cherish your memory forever, and we will take care of Casey. There will never be a dog who can take your place. We will never forget you. Thank you for these few years, teaching me about patience, obedience, hope, and unconditional love. I am so grateful that God created you and allowed us the time we had together.

Love you, Jagger.

im thankful.
carrie anne

One of my favorite videos: So God Made a Dog

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Recently, I did some gardening. It was really a forced activity. You see, last year I had this grand idea of creating a flowerbed in my front yard. Not just any flowerbed. No no. It had curves and bordered over half of the yard. It was intricate, and when it was done, it was beautiful. I was so happy to see it completed and almost exactly what I had pictured in my mind. Then I realized a year later that you can't just plant a garden and hope it turns out okay. Hope doesn't tend gardens.

So needless to say, my flowerbed turned into the eyesore of the block. We're talking weeds taller than my knees, root systems so complex that a 4th grader could do an amazing science experiment on 'em, and a scene so unsightly that I refuse to post a before/after image. While I was toiling away, I began thinking of how much this flowerbed was like marriage. I began saying things to myself that couples commonly say in my therapy office. Things like this:

"I didn't know it was this bad."

I seriously didn't. There was no way to prepare me for what was ahead when I finally decided to take care of my garden. I started, and I seriously almost quit right after I realized how much work there was to do. I didn't know it had gotten this bad. At times, I was yanking out weeds, and I was feeling better. The flowerbed looked better, but unless I got the root, I knew it was going to keep coming back. Good therapy addresses the root of marriage issues, not just teaching communication skills and address surface level issues. It's hard and takes longer, but those weeds didn't grow overnight either. Pulling them all out is tough stuff.

"If I had known, I would have done this sooner."

So many times I walked to the mailbox or pulled in the driveway and saw weeds coming out of the ground. I was embarrassed then but thought that I'd just get to it later. How much easier it would have been for me to just pull a few weeds out of the ground months ago rather than putting in all the work I did after it had gone way too far. Research is clear that couples wait and average of 7 years before attending therapy. Sometimes by then, it's too difficult to move on together after so much hurt. If you're in the River Valley, click here to begin that process with me in counseling. I'd be honored to join you.
"This is really hard work." 

Like... really hard work. Props to all the gardeners out there. You all have my utmost respect. I have been so sore that I have woken myself up at night just by turning over. I am sore in muscles I didn't know I even had. My legs were shaking like I had just left my barre class while I was yanking weeds out of the ground just 30 minutes in. Just like gardening, working on marriage issues is tough business. It's not for the faint of heart and requires perseverance. As mentioned before, it's not enough just to pull out the green stuff and leave the roots behind. As hard as it is, nothing will have truly lasting change until you address the roots. 
"There was never a good time to work on it."  

Yeah, there really wasn't. It was either scorching hot this summer or raining endlessly or I was really tired from a long day or my allergies were acting up or whatever excuse I had until my flowerbed turned into a big ugly mess. There's never a great time to weed the garden, and it doesn't really ever feel like there's a great time to work on your marriage either. I actually tried one day a few months ago to pull out a giant weed while walking back from the mailbox, and some stickers jabbed and stuck into my fingers. Probability went way down for me to try that again. Sometimes you try to address something in your marriage, and you get hurt; it's not worth it to let that continue to grow even though it makes sense why you'd shy away from something that hurts. (See Four Reasons Why You Won't Go to Marriage Counseling). If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll end up waiting forever.

"I can't believe all the work I put into this turned into a big mess."

This was hard for me. I was so proud of my flowerbed last year. It literally took ALL day to complete. Multiple trips to Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes. Supplies. Help from my family. Sweat. Possibly tears. But the end was so great. I was so happy to have checked off that project and have it be something so beautiful in our yard. I found myself disappointed in my lack of responsibility in between my handfuls of weeds and bugs. I could relate to couples who had great expectations and hopes for their marriages and suddenly realized the mess they were in. 

But hope is not a plan. Marriages, just like flowerbeds, require work... and not just once a year. They require care and the decision to pull "weeds" up from the root, even when it's risky and hurts. They deserve the hard work, even when it's inconvenient, difficult, and messy. Take a lesson from me and tend to your marriage before it gets too far. 

It might not be too late. 

im thankful.
carrie anne

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How I Learned to Risk: Part One

In 8th grade, I decided to try out for drill team. I was done with majorettes (that's baton twirling for all you non-band folk), and I wanted to be a Chaffin Charmer. An important fact to point out is all of my dance class history, which was zilch. Another important fact was my athletic ability; I was at the point of my life that I classify as the "awkward phase." Not my best few years. But, nevertheless, I signed up anyway. I went to the classes that taught the tryout dance, and my best friend at the time, Keely (who was 100% athlete and grace combined) helped me many afternoons to perfect my skills. I'll never forget her telling me how great I was at pointing my toes. 

So tryouts came, and even back then, they were a BIG deal. I got in my group of girls, headed into the gym, and did my best. I remember thinking in my head as a 14 year old chubby girl, "Do your best," "Smile," "Show your personality!" I walked out of the gym feeling like I had done what I could, and I felt secure in that, whatever the results came out to be. 

So back at this time, the Internet was not was it is today. The results of who made drill team and cheerleading were read after tryouts in the gym with everyone there to see your face and hear your cries. Spoiler alert: I did not make Chaffin Charmers that year. I didn't bust into tears or sob in my t-shirt. I was simply ready to exit the gym and get home. The only thing worse than being around all my peers in that gym to get those results was facing the barrage of screaming, hysterical, ridiculous moms waiting outside the glass doors outside. I will never forget one mom literally grabbing me and screaming, "DID SHE MAKE IT? DID 'SARAH' MAKE CHEERLEADER?!!!?" She shoved me aside before I could even answer. It was as close to a circus that I have ever been to. (Read Kevin Thompson's Blog What a Child's Mistake Reveals About a Parent for more insight on that area).

My tears didn't come until I walked up to my mom and had to tell her that I didn't make it... with all my green and gold good luck balloons, flowers, cards, and candy in my hands. I remember her hugging me, saying, "Oh baby. I'm so sorry. I'm sure you did your best and that it was great." We went home, and we talked more about the tryouts and the day I had getting these gifts and notes of good luck and a gigantic card signed by everyone I loved at the time wishing me the best. Even in my moment of "failure," my mom comforted me, supported me, and loved me without making me feel any shame. 

This memory came as a fleeting thought last week, and I cried as I began to think of how powerful this has been for me in my life. I cried talking to my husband about it, and I'm crying now as I type. I started thinking about how I had NO business trying out for a dance team - what was I even thinking? How did I even think I had a chance? How many times in my life did I attempt something that was completely out of my reach? How was I able to do that?

It's because of my mom. 

When I had a grand idea or some lofty dream, she was there to tell me I could do it and do it well. There was no doubt or discouragement when I said I wanted to try out to be a Charmer; she sent me the biggest good luck balloon there was. When I said that I wanted to to try out to give a speech at my high school graduation (when really I should stick to just writing and not really ever public speaking), she was my audience for a mock performance giving me the standing ovation in the living room. When I wanted to move across the country to spend a summer in Atlanta, she threw me a goodbye party, rode with me halfway, kissed me goodbye, and said I'd be fine. When I wanted to go to graduate school, she was there to say I could do it and that she was already so proud. When I wanted to go skydiving, she said I love you and be safe and watched as I got on a plane.

*Photo Cred: Stuart Lippincott

Mom, you were my safety net when I stepped out on unsteady tightropes. You were my parachute when I jumped out of tiny, beat up planes. You have been my safe place of loving support for my entire life, and it's because of you that I learned to leap and not fear the fall. You have given me a gift that many kids don't get... that will last all of my life and into my future children's lives. To say thank you is not enough, but thank you from the bottom of my heart. So many times I swung for the fences, not even knowing that I was a t-ball player in a major league game... all because you confidently held up a pendant reading "YOU CAN DO IT!" from the bleachers. You are the reason I can risk... because I know that you will be there if I make it or not, saying I did my best and that you love me anyway.

im thankful
carrie anne

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Deal with the Storms of Life

The storms of life hit all of us at times. We encounter loss, heartache, grief, and sadness, and a lot of times we have no idea how to make it through these particularly difficult parts of life. Everyone around us has their suggestions and advice, or even worse, nothing to say at all when we go through a painful situation. But what are we supposed to do when things go from better to worse and then worse to worst? What is the plan when one wave of life knocks us down and another one comes before we can even find out footing again?

Whether it's the loss of a loved one, divorce, a breakup, traumatic event, difficult news or a shocking diagnosis...Here are my thoughts for 4 ways to make it through painful moments in life.


1.) Survive
This may seem simple, but I can certainly assure that even surviving can feel like climbing Mount Everest for someone going through a difficult time in life. And what I mean by "survive," is just to simply make it through each day. Eat, drink, sleep, and survive.  When you're drowning in the middle of the ocean and fighting to stay above the waves, you aren't concerned with the form of your strokes or your tan lines. You just have to keep your head above the water. Forget the "fluff" of life: thank you cards, meetings, laundry, miscellaneous appointments, etc. At least temporarily, if it isn't required for you to survive through the day, let it slide.

2.) Stay close to supportive, loving people you can trust
Support of trusted friends and family can make an enormous difference in your grieving process. Being honest with them about what you need and don't need is also very important. If you're the type of person who wants people around and doesn't like to be alone, then vocalize those desires. And conversely, if you're the type who likes to be alone and grieve in solitude, then by all means, let that be known. Sometimes family and friends do their best to show support and love, and their best way of showing it may not be what you need/want. And if you know someone going through a difficult time and don't want to say/do the wrong thing, please read this article. I think it beautifully describes how to be a good friend to those in painful situations:  How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

3.) Avoid people who will cause confusion, irritation, or hurt
This may seem like it would be obvious given #2; however, it deserves its own bullet point. In the grieving process, it is all about YOU. You get to decide who you let in and who you don't, and there is nothing wrong with avoiding people who you bring you down during that process.

My family went through a traumatic experience when my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia at 5 years old (To read about my sister's survival and beautiful story, Click Here). My parents had to learn the hard way that some unexpected friends would be there for support, and other friends they counted on to be there wouldn't be. At times, some people were judgmental, mean, and downright nasty to my parents. In the process of caring for their terminally ill daughter, I can see nothing wrong with avoiding the people whose only function was to bring my family down. Basically, if someone's not throwing you a life jacket and helping you to keep from drowning, they aren't necessary to keep close to you.

4.) Cling to the truth
One of the most important things to do in the process of dealing with "waves of life" is to cling to what is true. So often, people in situations with horrible loss and almost constant hurt can become confused, lost, and afraid. One of the best ways to counter these emotions (other than to lean on others who are supportive) is to cling to what is true. Find Scripture that speaks to God's fondness of you to help if you are fighting doubts about who you are as a person. Review facts about what has happened and what may occur in the future in order to focus your mind and help to keep it from spinning out of control. Sometimes it seems impossible to focus your mind during these parts of life; cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself, and if you don't have the support system you need, consider seeing a therapist to help you organize and sort through the overwhelming spot you're in.

One thing that is guaranteed for all of us in life is to encounter difficult moments. For some of us, those moments may last longer and have fewer breaks between now and the next one. Hopefully, these 4 ideas might help you get through a painful situation or help you to be a better support for someone who is. I hope this brings some encouragement for those currently in painful situations... that surviving through it may be the best way you know how, and your best is enough.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Validation Ain't Such a Bad Thing

There's been a graphic going around the Internet, mainly by women's boutiques and adult females re-posting through social media. Here is it: 

Now, at first glance, some or most people would typically agree with this statement. We live in a culture that admires and celebrates independence and self-sufficiency, and in the midst of the feminist movement the past few decades, we celebrate these traits even more in women.

I can clearly see the pull toward this belief. Western culture has put the 'individual' on a pedestal for a long stretch of time. Look at any of our long-time heroes: John Wayne, Superman, and even Walter White (Breaking Bad fans, anyway?). It's filled in our music: Destiny's Child fans - "All the women who independent? Throw your hands up at me!", Ne-Yo's Miss Independent, and recently in Paramore's new single "Don't go crying to your mama 'cause you're on your own in the real world." We admire the individual instead of the team. Doing it on your own instead of asking for help. The person instead of the group... So it's easy to think that "not needing anyone else" makes us stronger, but I couldn't possibly disagree more.

It's my belief that we're never weaker than when all we depend on is ourselves. Over time (especially women), have decided that to need someone/depend on someone/rely on someone is a sign of weakness. We put up a wall that says, "I depend on me, and I don't need you." I think that's the message of this particular graphic, and it actually makes me sad. What a beautiful thing to have a relationship where there is connection, validation, support, and a secure bond. 

I understand why the wall gets put up; I'm assuming it's protection... from past hurts, future fears, and current insecurities about letting someone in who might let us down. I get it. But God didn't gift us with this life to live and move through it disconnected from the vulnerable and beautiful parts of others around us. It takes GREAT courage to receive or (oh my gosh) ask for validation. I think (and research shows) the strongest, most secure, and long-lasting relationships are the ones where partners are brave enough, vulnerable enough, strong enough to ask for validation and reassurance. What an amazing connection and enduring bond that brings for two people.

So in a way, I do agree with this graphic. The woman who doesn't require validation from anyone is the most feared woman on the planet; it definitely frightens me to think about having to live through life without the support, validation, and safety net of God, my husband, family, and friends. I definitely fear becoming that woman, and I hope that seeking validation and connection with others never becomes defined as a weakness for me personally. I think it's one of God's richest gifts to us and humanity's greatest strength and lifeline. 

So validation ain't such a bad thing after all...

im thankful.
carrie anne

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Four Reasons Why You Won't Go to Marriage Counseling.

Therapy can be a tremendous asset for your personal life and relationships. It can bring clarity, security, connection, and forgiveness that some never thought was possible. It can breathe new life into tired souls, repair hurts that seem too difficult to mend, and connect people who thought the time on their relationship had run out. It's a process that I find so meaningful that I've devoted my heart and professional life to helping others strive toward these seemingly impossible outcomes. 

So why do people put off counseling for so long? Statistics show that the average length of time a couple waits until they begin seeking therapy for a broken marriage is seven years. SEVEN YEARS. Imagine the hurt and bitterness that can grow in seven years that wasn't there in year one. Imagine the task of the therapist (or most therapists given the statistic) of trying to manage the amount of pain and anguish between this couple who have been trying to live with/fix/avoid the broken pattern of their relationship for so long. So why the wait? When someone has a broken arm, we go to the doctor for help immediately. We don't stay home reading books, looking up articles on the Internet, or trying our own medical expertise from the Boy Scouts to set the bone ourselves when there's help available. So why do we do that same thing with our broken marriages?

I think for a lot of couples, one or both partners deny a problem is even there. Perhaps one or both partners see a problem but try to keep up appearances of having a good marriage. It's hard diving into those issues, especially if you aren't confident that your partner will respond lovingly or openly. Sometimes starting therapy individually and adding a spouse in later can work; it shows your spouse that you're serious about working this out, even if that means just you working on it for a while if the other is unwilling.

Another reason is fear. What happens if someone sees us going to therapy? What happens if I have to become vulnerable and share parts of myself/our marriage that I want to stay hidden? What if therapy doesn't work and I put in all of this effort for nothing? All are valid fears. Even in today's culture where therapy has become more socially acceptable, it can still be embarrassing to be seen in a therapist's office. It's also a pretty scary experience to go and sit with a stranger and share parts of your life that aren't pretty and hurt you tremendously. And I think that it makes sense to be weary of putting in so much effort without getting the results you want. But what if therapy does work? What if things get better? And what happens if you don't seek help? Where does that leave you and your marriage? 

Money can be a barrier to most anything. Therapy isn't the most affordable thing in the world, and it makes sense that people don't want to risk throwing money into therapy when it might not end up how you wanted. However, we spend money on some crazy things and then turn right around and say therapy is too expensive. Cancel your cable for a few months. Stay in and eat instead of going out for a while. Rent a movie instead of going to the theater. Have a spending freeze where you don't buy clothes/makeup/sports equipment/etc. Maybe even work out at home instead of keeping up that gym membership/workout classes. Eliminating one or a few of these expense would give you more time together with your spouse and the money you might need for therapy. When you consider what's at stake (marriage, family, legacy), therapy really shouldn't ever sound that expensive anyway.

I know for many people in the River Valley area, the quality of therapy has been a major reason to avoid making an appointment. Who wants to go see a therapist when what you've heard about him or her hasn't been great? Or maybe you've seen a therapist before, had a bad experience, and won't ever go back. When we realize what's at stake or what might be lost if this doesn't work, we don't just run to the first clinician we can find any trust him or her with our deepest hurts and wounds. It makes sense to be cautious and to find a therapist who is properly trained, caring, empathic, and understanding... and not only that, but also confident that you can find connection with each other again. It's one of the main reasons I stepped out to begin private practice in this area this year after 3 years of working in an agency: I want to be able offer quality therapy to help couples and have them know that reconnection and repair is possible.

If you are struggling in your marriage or in your own personal life (or you know someone who is/couples who are), please urge them to seek counseling. As mentioned before, therapy can foster changes in relationships and individuals that seemed impossible before starting the process. And hopefully hearing from a therapist and seeing that I understand the struggle to get into my office and start the process will help make it in someway easier to take that step for yourself or your marriage. There are still a few eager and hopeful therapists in this area committed to helping you and your partner get your marriage where you want it to be. 

I'm honored to get to say that I am one of them.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Sunday, March 23, 2014

five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.

How do you measure a year? 

 I woke up this morning after a sleepless night last night with the instant sting of realizing that it's been one year. 

One year without my sweet Aunt Elaine.

My brain can barely comprehend life without her here... and it's been a year today. A year of firsts for our family: the first birthday without her, the first Christmas without hearing her laugh and cackle, the first gathering of the cousins without her in the picture. All these reminders that she's gone. 

But today is painful. Today is a reminder of the day she left us. A year that feels like forever ago and just yesterday all at once. It stings. It hurts. I grieve. 

But I also rejoice

My brother sang this beautiful song at my Aunt's funeral, and it has been my anthem ever since. 

There is hope. 

Though we suffer and grieve here... and though this year has been one of the longest and most painful without my precious Aunt, the time she has spent in Heaven is incomparable. 

It doesn't change the fact that I still miss her. I hate that she never got to step foot in my first home, play with my precious puppy who I know she'd love, be with us at Christmas and family get togethers again, or make me laugh endlessly without knowing how what she said was funny.

She's being held in Heaven. 
And we are being held here. 
God knows us both and comforts us all.

A year without you has been so hard. I miss you endlessly and love you with all my heart. 

im thankful.
carrie anne

Friday, February 21, 2014

in defense.

There are many times in life I wonder why. I wonder why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. I wonder why someone ever invented panty hose? I wonder why God decided to make this Earth the way it is. I wonder why people are so mean? 

When I was younger, my mom used to tell me that I was filled with "righteous indignation." At the time, it sounded like a spell a witch puts on you; however, now I consider it a great compliment. I watch others hurting and get filled with passion to speak out or do something to make it change. One of my favorite shows is "What Would You Do" put on by John Quiñones. I watch these episodes designed to have people step in and speak up for someone else in a difficult position. I've often struggled with knowing when to speak up for others, especially when my passion is strong, and still maintain my own integrity and character in the process. 

At this point in time, I feel it necessary to speak up for a man I truly respect and admire: 

Coach Jim Rowland 

Recently, an article was published in the local paper that called into question Coach Rowland's character and accused him of running a "good ole boy system" in the Fort Smith Public School's athletic department. While everyone is entitled to his own opinion, I also feel it is necessary to publish facts when the article is published in anything other than the opinion section. There were no concrete details, only accusations based on "whispers and stories" from people in this area. And let's face it, if you're getting information from dads of junior high and high school kids, you know your information will be embarrassingly wrong. 

So let's talk about Coach Rowland. He started working in the Fort Smith Public School system  in 1963. He was a track and football coach at Darby Junior High and then moved to be an assistant football coach at Northside High School for 4 years. In 1970, he transitioned to become the head football coach at Southside High School for 12 years. In 1982, he was Southside's assistant principal until 1991 where he became the Fort Smith Athletic Director, which is the title he still holds 23 years later. 

One of the points made in this article is how awkward it must be for players from Northside to come to play at Southside when the stadium is named after the Athletic Director. First of all, I highly doubt that players will ever care about the name of a stadium. That has to be the last thing on their mind on Friday night.  Secondly, what is wrong with honoring a man who has been devoted to ALL Fort Smith schools since 1963? Most cities (until recently) in this district haven't had to encounter NEAR the amount of balancing and work that Fort Smith has had just by having 2 high schools in the same town. Some may say there is favoritism over the other, but neither school has received any upgrade (turf, indoor facility, etc) that the other hasn't also received as well. This put Fort Smith as a whole behind other schools, but it was what was fair. Lastly, the Fort Smith School Board was responsible for voting that the stadium be named after Coach Rowland.... and rightfully so. The man deserved it and still continues to deserve it. What other stadium/arena/venue would have been renamed for him? This was a perfect opportunity, and I was honored to watch its dedication. 

I've never known a harder working man than Coach Rowland. Growing up in the Fort Smith Public School system basically my entire life, I've seen this man at almost every sporting event I attended.... and not even just the games. He's at practices and meetings and painting football fields at 5 in the morning and mowing grass and meeting with horrible, awful parents who just want to complain about anything... all in between riding his bike daily, loving a breathtakingly beautiful wife, raising a loving family, and having fun with his grandchildren. I honestly don't know how he does it, especially when there are people as bold and as rude enough to criticize the job he has done. 

I'm sure after working in that position since 1991, there have been a few mistakes made. The writer pointed out how the "whispers and stories and allegations" he heard were about people sneaking their kids across town to play sports in a different district. I wonder how a man as busy as Coach Rowland is doesn't have time to investigate and study these things? I wonder how a man with a schedule as full doesn't think to follow and go door-to door after every address is turned in at every school at the beginning of every season and verify that each athlete currently resides at each address? If you want to hold someone responsible for kids going to school in the wrong district, how about their parents? When did we fall so far away that we have to blame administration for something that wouldn't be a problem if parents did the right thing? If there's a finger to point, it's with the kids' parents forging documents and lying for their children, not with the athletic director. 
All of this to say, I wonder why this man decided to publish this article? What was the purpose? He stated many times that Coach Rowland should retire. I'm assuming that will probably happen. Why state the obvious? Of course Coach Rowland will retire. I don't think he even wants to work this hard forever. So why even say it? Why drag someone's name through mud just to make a point that someone without Fort Smith ties needs to be hired? The article could have easily been written without all of the nonsense published for the entire city to read.  The writer mentioned "powerful leaders" in the school system including Dr. Gooden, Mr. Haver, and Dr. McDonald, and went out of his way to EXCLUDE Coach Rowland from this group. My sir, how wrong you are. If you knew this man at all, you'd have a different story.

And after I read the article, I was hurt.

 I was hurt because this man has been my mom's boss for nearly 15 years. I know this man. He's watched me grow up. I've seen him come to practices in the summer Arkansas heat to check out the teams and encourage the coaches. I've seen players and coaches get hushed and quiet and show respect that you can feel down in your bones for this man. I've watched him come in and out of that athletic office, walking with that rushed, forward leaning walk only he has. I've heard him handle stressful situations and parents who are unbelievably rude/clueless with class and respect. I've watched him care for my mom and be a wonderful boss to her. I've seen him get up from his busiest days behind his desk just to come out and ask me about life and how I'm doing. I've witnessed him lose his lifelong friend as well as his long-time secretary to cancer and grieve for friends and colleagues in difficult situations.

Good ole boy system you say? 

Who I know is a good man. 
im thankful.
carrie anne

Coach Rowland and I after State Bowling Championship in 2005. Rebs won!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

why "they" has to change.

It seems as though the instant you get married, people start asking you when kids are on the way. My first thought is, "Really?" Is marriage not enough at this point? Perhaps it's the culture in which we live that can't savor moments and enjoy them fully before we're already searching for the "next" thing. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against those who choose to start a family immediately or whenever the time comes. I'm more speaking to the "they" who always seems to come around and speak words with undertones that where you are in life isn't quite good enough... or hard enough.

During difficult times, They say, "Just wait until you have kids."

Probably the most common statement young married couples hear. Isn't this ridiculous? And we've all heard it... maybe said it. Can we stop and think about how painful that statement might be? I mean, really... think about how hard it might be to take that in. I can speak to it from a married, non-parent point of view. In the middle of difficult, stressful times, instead of normalizing my pain and comforting me, someone chooses to point out how that pain doesn't compare to what they've experienced in  parenthood. Ouch. And I won't even touch the topic of women's bodies and comparing each other before and after giving birth.

During happy times, They say, "Too bad you don't have children here to enjoy this with."

Maybe I do want children in my life, just not right now. I'm intentional with most parts of my life, especially the parts that include my marriage and my family. As I look out and see how many parents tend to make their children their idols, perhaps I lean toward the side that says children can wait. My life doesn't begin when I have children. I can have happy, meaningful moments before children come into my life. I've LOVED life with my husband the past 3 years together, and not having kids has allowed us to enjoy each other and make amazing memories together. 

Also on this point, can we think of how this would sting and bitterly hurt someone who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy issues, or adoption conflicts? Perhaps some people at this point in life would LOVE to be parents... and these statements about "how much they're missing" is another reminder of their pain and loss.

During ANY time, They say, "You don't know what tired is until you have kids." 

Okay... this one is just old. I get it: babies cry and keep you up all night. Awesome. I don't need that reminder every time I say that I'm tired or was up all night or couldn't sleep or whatever the case may be. Again, hard times are not solely allotted to raising children, right? What about people who never have children? Do they not understand sleepless nights and difficult situations?

And couldn't we raise the bar on any of these? I'm sure my mom could throw the royal flush on the table by saying, "You don't know what stressed/tired/overwhelmed is until you have a 7 year old with a terminal illness, a toddler, and a newborn to take care of." There's always someone who has it harder. What has happened that we hear about someone in distress and feel the need to downplay their situation and compare it to something more difficult we've encountered? Can't we just support and encourage each other?

And when you finally do have a kid, They say, "You're not a parent until you have more than 1 kid."

So here's the big daddy of them all. This is the one guaranteed to light a fire under my hind end. Where to begin... Let's set the record straight: Having one child makes you a parent. Not 2 kids, not 5 kids, not 21 kids... 1 kid. Whoever started saying this had some major insecurities about being a parent and felt the need to justify how "great" of a parent they were based on the number of children in their home. 

This. Is. Ridiculous. 
Stop saying it. Again with the pain it brings: almost every mother I speak with about parenthood and raising children will 100% express doubt in what they're doing. They have no idea most of the time and frequently think about how lost and inadequate they feel... especially new parents. Take that feeling and then tell them that they aren't parents until they have another one. Are you kidding me? How defeating. 

And what about the parents who had a child/adopted a child and now can't... for whatever reason: physically, financially, emotionally. Or heaven forbid, what if they only want one child?! There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think back to how many wonderful, inspiring people I've known who've raised amazing and talented kids with no siblings. People I respect and care about (Kirk and Kellie Hobbs, Randy and Claudia Davis, The Stitsworths). I can't imagine telling them or even hearing someone tell them that they truly don't understand parenthood because they raised one child.

So maybe the another reason I wait to have children is because of this mess... the mess of competing for who has it worse. I know it doesn't get better with motherhood: judging, comparing, downgrading, competing, etc. I think that I know it gets worse. But I don't think that it has to. I think we have to realize that WE are the "They." We get to choose what words to say to young married couples without children, couples with a newborn baby, and mommas and daddies of all kinds. Our words are powerful. I'd like to see the culture change into an encouraging, uplifting one instead of the degrading, competing one we have now. Parenthood is a beautifully difficult thing. Let's choose to lift each other up because most of us will be fighting that fight together. We don't need another wound in the middle of it when we could be spurring each other on instead.

So I'll start: Here's to you single people are still looking for that person, to the newlyweds still trying to figure out what in the world you just got into, the young married couples without kids dealing with each other and life in general (which is a lot), the new parents not sleeping and not going to the bathroom alone feeling unprepared, the parents of one who hear the criticism or passive aggressive comments about "only" having one baby, the parents of multiple children who deal with putting on multiple shoes, socks, jackets every time you leave the house, the parents of grown children who feel lost in that transition, and the adults who didn't have children for whatever reason life had.... 

You are enough. You are important. You are loved.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Friday, January 3, 2014


In the middle of trying to recap 2013 in my mind, I realized that it was a HUGE year for our family. I've looked at posts and blurbs online of people welcoming the new year, either very hopeful for continued great things or extremely desperate for a fresh start. It's funny how we can wrap up an entire year as being "good" or "bad." Most people my age are hitting some big milestones in life: new jobs, marriage, kids, moves, etc. While all of those things can be wonderful, it also sets up the possibility of loss and heartache. The job fell through. The relationship ended. We lost the baby. 

My mindset last year (and hopefully continued on for years to come) is to be more intentional with my time, mainly with family and friends. While 2013 was a great year for our family, it wasn't because everything was wonderful and that tragedy escaped us. I believe last year was good because I kept faith in God that things that happened (or didn't happen) were of His doing, and I had a truly incredible group of family and friends alongside me for whatever came. 

So here is our 2013 in review:


My journey with EFT truly began. Ryan blessed me so much by supporting this career move and head-first dive into a therapy I love SO much. We ventured out to San Diego for my first intensive training and got to see the beautiful city during my time away. I also got to meet and learn straight from the founder of EFT.... and I saw my first elephant in person at the San Diego. 

My beautiful sister also turned 33, and we celebrated together.


My sweet niece Bella turned 3 years old (I can't believe she's already almost 4 now!), and I turned a solid 26. We spent time celebrating our birthdays with family. Ryan and I spent our 4th Valentine's Day together. We spent the weekend in NWA and loved our meal at Ruth's Chris. 


I got to spend time with Casey (watching the Hogs take down Kentucky in Bud Walton), and we enjoyed many concerts with Casey singing at various venues. We also found out that my sweet friend Aletha was having a BOY! Ryan continued his birthday gift extravaganza and took me to our first NBA game to watch the OKC Thunder play the Celtics. 

March has to be the hardest month of 2013. Our family unexpectedly lost my Aunt Elaine. Read about her here. The short story is that during a mom-daughter weekend trip to NWA, we found out that my aunt was going to the hospital. In our desperate attempts to get back to Fort Smith in time, we found out on the way that my Aunt had suddenly passed away. The news rocked our family and continues to ripple into 2014... and probably the rest of our lives. She is terribly missed. 

((We also spent Easter together as a family... and oh yeah, Ryan wrecked my car on our way to Oaklawn: read that story here). 


Slightly calmer. We spent weekends at Oaklawn with friends watching the horses run. I found a brand new little friend in Cass. Ryan, Casey, Jonathan, and I spent a weekend up in NWA watching the Naturals play and the Arkansas spring game. Ryan began his full-on love affair for Bret Bielema, and we got to enjoy a night with the Fort Smith Razorback Club where he spoke. 


We welcomed Wesley Reed Lensing into the world. Ryan and I spent a special Mother's Day eating and going to the movies with our moms. Ryan and I also flew to Dallas with our friends, Kathryn and Darren, to visit Six Flags and explore the city. 


Biggest news: Ryan and I moved into a NEW HOUSE! I guess a piece missing from April is that we made an offer on a house and took the next few months to plan and prep for the move. We enjoyed our final cookouts on our old front porch with a fake strip of grass I got for Ryan last year. We also took a big family trip to the lake to spread my Aunt's ashes and spend time together honoring her. 
Mom, Dad, Casey, Ryan, and I went to see The Lion King (broadway edition) in Tulsa (Ryan's birthday gifts for me continue). And the boys took the "Man Trip" out to fish and camp together. I took my niece on the ferris wheel and spent time with the women in my family.


Big month. Ryan's birthday gifts reach their climax and completion with a weekend in OKC for fireworks, food, and BEYONCE. Ryan got a pool for the back deck, and it becomes our new hangout spot with lights and of course, the grill. 
My EFT journey continues to Seattle where I got the honor of hearing Sue Johnson and the Gottmans speak on marriage (among many other things). While in Seattle, I had one of the BEST moments of my life -- getting to see my brother for the first time in almost 13 years. Incredible moment. 
We had our first "shrimp broil" on the back deck (many more to come). Ryan finished his degree, and we finally had a house where both sides of our family could come to celebrate together with us.


August is always a full month, with so many family birthdays. Zachary turned 4 - Stephen turned 21 - Jonathan turned 23. Mom turned 61. Ryan continued to perfect his grilling, and I was officially DONE with meat after the summer. Ribs, steaks, chicken, brisket, pork butt... GALORE. Oh yes, Razorback season started. Be still, my heart (But really, it stayed still and died... just like the season).


Razorback football continues to move forward. Ryan, Casey, and I ventured out to the A&M gain in the rain and cold. My hair made a shift from a side part to a middle (perhaps only girls will understand the magnitude of that). My EFT adventure keeps moving on with a week trip to New Orleans for super intensive training with some amazing trainers from around the country. We also found out that Ryan's sister is having a GIRL in February. We can't wait for Payton to get here :)


The weather began to turn BEAUTIFUL. I tried my hand at some gardening since we had a yard and space to experiment. My mums were gorgeous. Mammaw turned 85 this year, and we celebrated and ate cake together. Ryan and I keep spending time out back on our deck, utilizing the fire pit Casey got Ryan greatly with a movie fireside. Pumpkin carving with the Feero family as usual - I carved up Heisenberg. Bella was just about everything for Halloween (Pirate, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First)... and Casey and Ryan helped me transform our front yard and build a new, HUGE flowerbed from nothing... We also made endless trips to Home Depot and Walmart and nearly blew out the tires on Ryan's little car transporting the loads.



OUR BIG VACATION. We waited for over a year to travel to the Southern Caribbean - St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Dominica, Antigua, and Grand Turk (with ports in Puerto Rico and Miami). We had the time of our lives and have memories to share together for the rest of our lives. We also came home to sleet and freezing rain. Welcome to Arkansas.
November is also a big birthday month. Daddy turned 68, and we celebrated by tailgating at the Razorback game (vs Auburn). Ryan turned 27 on our cruise, and Casey turned 28 to close out the month. I love my November boy birthdays.

The holidays hit FULL swing right after Thanksgiving this year. Our first snow storm kept up cooped up for a few days... perfect timing to celebrate our 3rd anniversary together. We got to welcome Grandpa Rick and visit with him in Arkansas for a few days... and of course, decorate the Feero tree. Ryan "officially" graduated college, and I made him participate in the graduation ceremony and walk. He received the highest Latin honors. So proud! We had a special night celebrating with the Craigs, and Casey and I planned for Don Bailey to play "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as well as "What a Wonderful World" for our parents and Mammaw. So special since it was Aunt Elaine's favorite song. We also attended the Christmas Jam to celebrate the life of our dear friends, Brandon and Keely Trusell, who passed away on December 22nd, 2009. Can't believe it's already been 4 years. Christmas was hard this year - our first one without Aunt Elaine. We cried and shared memories together. It's true that the firsts are always the hardest.  
Ryan completely surprised me on Christmas with a new ornament on the tree of a PUPPY. Benson Bay Feero will join our family on January 25th, 2014. I couldn't be any happier. Ryan also became the happiest man alive when I gave him tickets to see Zac Brown Band in Tulsa to close out the year.

So there's our year. Ups... downs... big moments and everyday moments. There are certainly things I missed, but going through these memories has been very meaningful. It's crazy to think all that was packed into just one year. We consider ourselves truly blessed to have the lives we do and to believe and trust in a God who has given us all these things. We continue to trust in him in 2014... that ALL things are through Him and that He will be with us no matter what our lives may look like ahead.

im thankful.
carrie anne