We have taken so many different paths to bring my family to where it is today. And I believe, with all my heart, that there is no greater example of love than the picture of my family....

Friday, November 25, 2016

Definition of Family

As the Thanksgiving season arrived and quickly ushered in the Christmas season right alongside it, I stopped for a moment to reflect on how many times I heard the word "family" used this week.

Why is it that the arrival of a holiday like Thanksgiving seems to always conjure up emotions and sentiments related to the concept of FAMILY in human beings?

You think that in the animal kingdom packs and herds and flocks all wait to talk to each other (or God forbid, care for each other) until a magical day in November arrives? Of course they don't, so what on earth is wrong with the human race?

Family is not a novelty that we pull out with our harvest-themed tchotchke or that we don along with our stockings and the lights that hang from our rooftops.

Family is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year commitment.
Family is not holiday-themed.
It not something you can renew with the purchase of a Hallmark greeting card. It is not something you can reclaim with your contribution of a crystal bowl of cranberry sauce. And it is not something you can even begin to understand if you truly think it's merely something associated with a day that the banks and post offices are closed.

So what is family?
Well, to start, it is laced with love and compassion.
It is frothed with worry and burden.
It is shrouded in unwavering commitment to be there no matter what.
It is a conscious choice that you make every single day to SHOW UP.
It is a crazy kind of love that allows you to love those that at times are incredibly unlovable.
It is what allows you to persevere through heartbreak and pain and really, really bad days.

It is not something you remember as that holiday favorite plays on the radio.
It is not something you rekindle as you walk into a house to see people that you have not communicated with in months.
And it is not something you get the privilege of celebrating just because Macy's flies a few balloons and the Cowboys put on their helmets to face the Redskins.
Family is not something you DO.

Rather, it is something you ARE.

Maybe I am naive or perhaps, a little bit cynical (or maybe a combination of both), but I refuse to stand by and let others claim the notion of "family" because they remembered to call someone on November 24th. What about the calls or connections that needed to be made on November 3rd or even back in the summer?

What about the kid or the parent or the sibling that needed you on a day that Hallmark does not officially commemorate?

I know all about physical separation; I know what it's like to live THOUSANDS of miles from your daughter, your sister, your mom...

I know all about not letting those miles become anything more than a physical separation between you and the people you love. Because family does not have anything with the place where you get your mail.

My family has evolved a lot over the last three years.

We've lost an irreplaceable mom.
We've added a very unique 😛son-in-law.
We've been blessed with a precious granddaughter.
And most recently, we've added two incredible sons.
And while I LOVE, hear me.... ABSOLUTELY LOVE... gathering around our Thanksgiving table, passing the turkey, dressing, and gravy with these 11 people, I love even more the fact that each and every one of them knows that on all the "days that are not Thanksgiving", I will be there for them.
For whatever they need.

Because I understand the meaning of family.

I claim it every morning when I awaken and place that first foot on the floor.
I live it every second of the day, to the point that sometimes they like me and sometimes, they just shake their heads at me.

But as they place those same heads on their pillows at night, they know.
In a world where most everything else is tenuous at best, they know I will always show up for them... on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the other 353 days that don't get them a day off from work and school.

Because that, my friends, is what families do.

PS: And they don't require anything related to DNA.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

12 seats at my table

Today is my most favorite day of the year. I love Christmas Eve, I love Christmas day, and I love the first day of spring, but none of these comes close to how I feel about Thanksgiving. 

I think it's because this day has nothing to do with buying gifts or paying money to go and see something. No, this day is 100% about family. It is about the honor of preparing all of our family's most favorite traditional foods and then watching the smiles on the faces of the people I love as they begin to taste each bite. 


I love planning a menu (that does not change much from year to year) and then shopping to make sure I have each and every ingredient to make each item just how they like it. I love the night before Thanksgiving, getting to check things off my Prep List and filling my fridge with things in the order of when they need to be pulled out the next morning.

I love making my oven schedule about when each thing goes in and when each thing is ready to come out, cooked to perfection. 

I love getting up when the house is dark and quiet to put that lovely bird in the oven and then opening that oven up every 45 minutes to baste that guy with a little Cajun love. 

And I absolutely love setting the table. I set the table for dinner every single day...just ask the boys... but today is different. Today we use ALL the dishes.  And today, for the first time, I get to serve "Kevin" (yes, that is what Corrie named our bird) on the FAMILY TURKEY PLATTER. It's been at my parents' house for years and years, but when we moved Dad to College Station this summer, the platter got to come home with me. I cannot wait to put "Kevin" on it. 

And today, I love the fact that in our family we have TWELVE people and today, at at my Thanksgiving table, I will have TWELVE seats. Everyone is here. No one is missing. 

Yes, our hearts ache for the physical absence of my mom, but man, she is here. 

She is here in my kitchen and at our table. She is here in my "Thanksgiving instruction sheet" she sent me 16 years ago as I prepared to make my first real Turkey dinner. And even though I know by heart how to make all the parts to this amazing meal, I still pull this page out and refer to it every single year. She was here last night as J, Campbell, Jess, Corrie, and I gathered in the kitchen to boil the giblets, chop the veggies, and bake the cornbread (and drink the wine!). She. is. here.  

So today, when I think about what I am most thankful for.... well, I am thankful for 12 seats.... 12 FILLED seats and the fact that today, on this one day out of our crazy busy lives, life is just as it should be

Happy Thanksgiving from the Crazy 12.
I hope you are as blessed today as I am. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Her impact is still being felt....

Most girls who get pregnant at 16 and drop out of high school never dream that "school" can ever be something for their futures. However, my mom was not most people.

Yes, she was 16 when I was born.
Yes, she chose me over her high school education. 

And yes, she eventually went back and got her GED.
But her story did not end there.

She did not just empower me to become the educator I am today, but she became one right alongside me.

In fact just weeks before her death in 2013, she retired from 20 years of service to Texas public schools.

She worked for several years as a consultant at several different Regional Education Service Centers throughout Texas.
She worked almost as many years as the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and Secretary to the Board of Trustees. 

But she ended her career doing what I get to do every single day....in Professional Development. 

There is a Professional Development event every summer in Lovejoy ISD known as Learning@Lovejoy and it exists because of my mom. In fact, because her indelible fingerprints could be seen on the lives and classroom practices of so many educators even after she was gone, Lovejoy ISD created an award in her honor the school year after she was taken from us. 

In September 2013 my dad and I were honored to get to stand and shake the hand of each educator who was given the "Dee Rogers Memorial Professional Development" Award, and each autumn after that first night, another group of educators has had this award bestowed upon them. 

I received an email this week announcing the 4th Annual Presentation of the Dee Rogers Memorial PD Award and my heart just ached. 

It ached because I was reminded that it was not just our family that lost someone irreplaceable on June 24, 2013, but it was an entire educational community. Her touch can still be felt in Lovejoy ISD and beyond, but it saddens me that her impact must only be felt posthumously. It's just not right....

I am so very grateful for a community that recognizes and celebrates her impact every single year. What an incredible testament to who she was. 

I want to be just like her when I grow up.