Sunday, June 5, 2011

Walt Disney World!

Our family recently returned from a long-overdue vacation.  I'm talking EIGHT LONG YEARS overdue!  And our vacation destination was the same place we went eight years ago... Walt Disney World!  It's our absolute favorite place on earth to go.  At least, it is right now, since we've not been anywhere else as a family!  LOL!  (We plan on taking them to Washington D.C. and New York over the next few years as those are my other favorite places to visit!)

If you have never been to Disney World I encourage you with all my heart to try to go, whether you have small children, older children, or no children at home at all.  It's such a magical place and everyone becomes a kid again when visiting the Magic Kingdom!  Or at least, they should.  But sadly, while there I saw far too many tired, whiney kids getting on the nerves of their tired, grouchy parents, and that is no fun for anyone.  Why get all the way to Disney World only to ruin everyone's vacation by not being prepared BEFORE you arrive?!

Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging all about our trip and sharing all the best tips I learned to help make anyone's trip to Disney World the best it possibly can be.  Please trust me when I say Disney World is NOT a trip you can just take with no prior planning.  For some, a trip to Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime vacation.  For others, it's simply too magical of a place to only visit once.  Regardless, if you will take the time to plan and organize your Disney vacation you will come home with a lifetime of wonderful memories, and hopefully lots and lots of pictures to help preserve those memories!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amanda, Light of My Life

When I was a little girl my stepdad was in a couple different country music bands.  That's all I knew growing up, hearing him singing and playing with his band buddies.  One song I remember fondly was 'Amanda' by Waylon Jennings.  I always loved that song becuase of the way the end of the word 'Amanda' ( followed by 'light of my life') was sung higher and higher and higher.  I loved singing those notes along with the drummer! 

When I was nine my mom and I moved from Illinois to Kentucky with my stepdad.  Being so young and moving from an hour south of Chicago to a small town in Kentucky was not easy for me.  I was very sad about leaving my friends.  I felt lost.  This was a whole different way of life for me.  I was used to neighbors being just a few feet away.  Now they were quite a walk away, if not a good DRIVE away.  A new school, a new home, a whole new way of life.  With no siblings to commiserate with I was really lost.

But God saw my little broken heart and sent me an angel, my new Aunt Mandy.  We moved in with Mandy, my stepdad's sister, while our house was being built.  Aunt Mandy took me right in and treated me like one of her own.  She loved on me and cooked for me and talked with me, she even tried to snatch my birthday present while I was opening it once (picture above)!  She always had a hug ready and waiting for everyone, whether she hadn't seen them in a while or if she had just seen them the day before.  It didn't matter to Mandy.  She loved everyone.

During this time of living with her I began transforming from a little girl into a young woman, if you know what I mean.  I was quite young for this and I was freaked out.  But I remember Aunt Mandy coming into my room, sitting down beside me on my bed, and talking to me about 'things'.  Her words comforted me and I was so thankful for her.

Once, I woke her up while I was sleepwalking.  She heard me and came to see what I was doing.  She caught me at the front door putting on my coat and asked me where I was going.  "I'm going home", I told her.  "Ok, here, let me help you".  She took my coat off and led me back to bed and tucked me in.  Thank God, literally, for her!  Who knows where I may have ended up!

Once our new home was built I still saw Mandy every day since we lived right across the road from her.  Even after I was married and had children of my own one of my favorite things to do was to go to Mandy's and just sit outside with her, enjoying the breeze and talking about whatever was going on at the time.  Just look at all that family sitting out under Mandy's carport and in the yard enjoying family time and some good music!

We weren't the only ones Mandy opened her home up to.  After we moved out and into our own home Mandy took in an older gentleman named Norwood.  I'm not even sure who exactly he was but I believe he was some relation to her late husband.  I'm sure this wasn't always an easy task.  The one thing I remember about Norwood is that he DRANK linament!  Oh, and smelled like it as well.  LOL!  But Mandy opened her heart and home and took care of him until his death.  What an amazing woman.

And oh what a cook she was!  I loved Mandy's potato salad.  To this day I can't stand to eat any other potato salad, except Mandy's.  She knew this and any time we had a family reunion she was sure to make some.  I think it made her feel good to know that hers was the only one I would eat.  Oh, and her potato cakes!  Oh my goodness.  Those were heavenly, and she used to make them often for me.  I'm going to have to make sure to get those recipes now I guess.  I didn't want them before because those foods were special any time I had them because that meant that Aunt Mandy had made them for me.  I'm crying, again, knowing I'll never again taste the love that went into everything Mandy made.

Due to other's situations and allowing life to get in the way I hadn't seen or talked to Mandy in a couple years, although we lived only 15 minutes apart.  It broke my heart and I thought of her often, missing her hugs and our talks and of course, her yummy food.  The saddest part for me, the thing that has my heart hurting more than anything, is that for the past few months I have had Mandy on my mind and wanted to call her just to hear her voice again.  I missed her.  I missed her laugh, her hugs.  She truly, genuinely cared about others and I missed her greatly.  But I would call, soon.  Aunt Mandy would always be there.  She was the rock of the family.  She was hardly sick.  She was the youngest of her siblings.  I never dreamed I would never get the chance to talk to her again.

Aunt Mandy went to be with the Lord yesterday after successfully coming through a heart cath where three stints were placed to open up blockages.  I was so very thankful to hear she would be coming home today.  No more putting off seeing or talking to her.  I was going to visit her this week!  I couldn't wait!  Sadly, God had other plans and He is now the One that gets to receive those hugs of hers, the One that gets to sit and talk with her and laugh with her.  What a glorious reunion they are having right now, with all her siblings that have gone on before her, her parents, and her beloved husband she has been without for so very, very long.  I'm so happy for her, but so very sad for those of us who are left behind to miss her every single day for the rest of our lives. 

Yet, I find comfort in knowing that one day I will see her again.  I can't wait to get to Heaven and feel those arms around me one more time, to hear her precious laugh, and just to sit and enjoy the breeze and talk about everything that's been going on.

I love you Aunt Mandy and I truly thank God for sending you into my life when I needed you the most.  Thank you for always loving me, as well as my own little family, no matter what.  Thank you for the hugs, the talks, the smiles, the home when we didn't have one, the potato salad, the potato cakes, the apple crisp recipe you gave me a few years ago, all the sweet corn, for letting my kids come pick apples out of your trees.  Thank you for the memories, and thank you for giving your life to the Lord so those of us left here mourning your passing can have the hope and the comfort of knowing that we can indeed see you again if we simply make the same decision you did to give our hearts over to the Lord and serve Him.

Thank you Aunt Mandy.  I miss you greatly, and I will see you soon.  I promise!