Wally (May 6, 2004-May 23, 2018)

“Every 12 year old boy needs a dog.” 

That was my sales pitch to Mike back in February of 2004. Dillon was begging to get a Shiba Inu puppy but our last experience with a dog hadn’t gone so well. In 1997, Charlie, our yellow lab, had chewed up most of the boy’s toys, our backyard bushes, our video camera, our spa cover and even our deck!  We ended up giving him to another family who had more energy and time to spend with him. 

That’s why I was so surprised Mike agreed with my reasoning for another dog. Dillon and I began searching the Internet for a Shiba breeder close to Nashville. We found Pat Hartman of Redwing Shibas in Knoxville and got on a waiting list right away. We wanted a red female, and there was a litter that was due in May. May 6, 2004 brought two red and one Black and Tan females and 1 red male. After a few weeks, Pat called me and said, “I know you said you wanted a girl but I really think this boy is for you!” We took a road trip to Knoxville  to meet the now five week old litter of pups. Dillon decided the boy was for him. He named him Wally and we brought him home the second week of July when he was 9 weeks old.

At this point I need to say I had three outdoor dogs when I was growing up who all died too young in tragic ways. As an adult I was determined to treat my dogs as the family members they are. We only let Wally out on a leash or inside our fence to potty and play for a few minutes each day, yet he still managed to escape dozens of times through the years, running crazily through the neighborhood. He truly escaped death so many times we attributed it to the Shiba Inu’s cat-like qualities.

Somehow Wally made it to 14. He suffered from dementia and arthritis this last year, but he had a good life. We said goodbye to him this afternoon, and through our tears we feel a great sense of gratitude to have had him in our family through so many seasons of our lives. 

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30 Years!

I was going to read through what I wrote last year on our 29th anniversary but I decided to just write what I’m thinking right now on our 30th. If it’s the same, oh well! 

There’s not a single person on this planet who is completely emotionally and mentally healthy. We all are damaged, wounded, broken. That’s why I think it’s amazing any of us stay married. It’s really a miracle. Take two broken people and expect them to put each other first, believe and trust in each other, and work through every obstacle with open loving hearts?? Sounds impossible! 

I can’t attribute the longevity of Mike and my love and commitment to each other to anyone but God and the fact that BOTH of us chose Him as our example to live by. The Bible is filled with stories of broken messed-up people who sometimes put their trust in God and live their lives striving for truth, and sometimes go their own way. In fact, King David himself who was “God’s chosen” and was said to love the Lord with all his heart, often went his own way, damaging himself and others. The difference was he always came back. He eventually fell to his knees with a contrite heart, asking for the forgiveness that was already there waiting for him. 

In some ways 30 years seems like an eternity. We were so young and naive at 22 and 20! We had no idea what the future held for us, and there were years we almost let go of each other’s hand…but we didn’t. It takes two, making the choice everyday to stay connected, to stay vulnerable and open. In other ways 30 years seems like a blink of an eye. Where did the time go? Weren’t we just starting out yesterday?? How is it that we feel 25 but our oldest son is 26??

I’m so thankful I chose a man who chooses God first, and me next. I’m so grateful he chooses me every day, even when I’m depressed, manic, sick, angry, or downright crazy…for better or worse! Thank you Mike for being such a true example of love to me and to our family. I’m so glad we chose each other 30 years ago today and still do, cherishing every moment we are privileged enough to have together. Yes we are damaged, wounded, and broken, yet we both acknowledge this truth and are committed to our personal emotional, mental, and spiritual growth, which makes our relationship stronger.

Happy Anniversary my love!❤️

My Friend “Joe”

I’ve got this friend, let’s call him “Joe.” He’s one of those people that is quiet and unassuming, maybe even a little reserved upon first meeting. He’s probably by nature an introvert but he truly loves people, so he’s always talking to someone or listening to another person’s story. If you take the time to look you can see the kindness in his eyes. 

He’s always doing something for someone. He runs a restaurant and is constantly donating food and time to worthy causes. He cares. In a world filled with status-driven people who focus on their own agendas and on those who might raise their status by rubbing shoulders with them, “Joe” shines like a rare and precious jewel. Every time I’m around him, I hear Willy Wonka’s tired yet marveling voice in my head whispering, “So shines a good deed to a weary world.” “

“Joe” brightens a room with his sweet spirit, quietly spreading joy and positivity in a deliberate and refreshingly honest manner. He hasn’t had it easy. You can tell he’s had his fair share and then some of difficulties, sadness, and disappointment in this life, but somewhere along the way he made a choice to be a light in the darkness. He probably keenly remembers just how dark that dark can be and has decided to be a candle to help others along the way. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized how rare “Joe” is. I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances through the years, but only a handful out of hundreds, maybe thousands, are tried and true. That’s why I just had to tell you about my friend “Joe.”

“My Beauty”

As I was growing up, I never questioned whether or not my parents loved each other. They spent a lot of time together, taking romantic trips, teaching Quo Vadis, and heading up marriage seminars. I also remember them laughing, a lot. In fact, we all did. Dad’s interpretation of intimacy was laughter. Pretty sure his philosophy can be summed up like this, “If everyone’s laughing, everyone’s getting along and happy.”

He had the habit of diffusing anger and disagreements by cracking jokes and giggling until we finally joined in. While this made life fun and kept us from fighting, I’ve since realized he was avoiding conflict at all costs which in turn means avoiding truth. Conflict is needed for resolution. Meaningful relationships must have conflict in order to grow.

Not only did my dad avoid discourse, but also expressions of love. He would smile and say “I love you” in a goofy voice, and he would give an uncomfortably stiff side-hug if forced to hug someone. He would joke about mom’s beauty and if he would compliment her there would always be a “but if you’d do this it would be better…” attached (Higher heels, more lipstick, etc). He liked pretending that mom was the lucky one, but we all knew he really was. Expressing raw feelings was not something he learned in his family, so he relied on his sense of humor. 

Since Dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s we’ve seen his outward mask stripped away and he now freely expresses how he feels. When my mom enters his room he says, “My beauty!” no matter what she’s wearing or how she looks. He tells his caregiver, “Lorna is my sweetheart. I love her so much!” No more jokes. Just pure love. He often tells Mom he wants to marry her and she answers with a joke. She says, “Sorry but I’m already happily married….to you!”

Have a Peace-filled Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day and I wish all of you moms and grandmas and great grandmas and moms-to-be a very happy relaxing day! This picture is a flashback to 1970 of my lovely mother and me. So thankful we still have each other! 

As we all celebrate our motherhood, I want to encourage you to take a few steps back from everything happening around you and breathe. I’ve had a lifelong issue with anxiety and cyclothymia and at 50 am finally learning how to wait before overreacting to the unexpected. 

In my teens, twenties, and thirties I gave no thought to the responsibility of my own reactions, therefore I overreacted most of the time. Once I started therapy in my late thirties I began to understand how I exhausted myself and others. My emotional outbursts had trained those around me to walk on eggshells, and even withhold the truth. Basically I was teaching people to lie to me…and that does not sit well with a so called “truth-nazi.”

Recently I’ve had a rough few months with multiple difficult and sad events that have been completely out of my control. I’ve had to daily remind myself what I am in control of, my own behavior and reactions, and concentrate on being a positive force in the midst of trials swirling around myself and those I love. 

You and I can’t stop bad things from happening, but we can soothe others with authentic love and joy. We can choose to focus on the power we have to brighten those around us with a kind word or deed, and a genuine smile. We can accept the challenge of taking the unexpected difficulties in our lives and facing them with quiet strength. We can learn to wait…wait before reacting, breathe deeply before responding, think rationally before emoting. I wish for you love, joy, relaxation and peace always but especially today! Happy Mother’s Day!❤️

Dad’s Genes

A lot of families memorize scriptures together. Ours concentrated on Mel Brooks films. To be specific, Mel Brooks 1974 film Young Frankenstein. King Jon loved that movie and made it a point to indoctrinate the whole family. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it. We all can recite every line from every character. Favorites are…

“Stay close to the candle…the staircase can be treacherous”(in a thick German accent), 

“Werewolf!””There Wolf…there castle!” 

“Abby something… Normal…yes that’s it…Abby Normal.” 

“Could be worse, could be raining,” 

“Taffeta darling,” “Taffeta sweetheart,” “No the dress is taffeta it wrinkles so easily.”

Gene Wilder was brilliant as Dr Frederick Frankenstein(he claimed it was pronounced Fronk-en-steen), and he was King Jon’s idol. I read an article yesterday that said Mr Wilder wanted to be remembered for Young Frankenstein more than Willy Wonka. Well even if the rest of the world didn’t get the memo the  Kardatzke’s granted that wish. 

August 29, 2016 I wept like I’d lost my dad. I guess I had lost another part of him because he had shared his great admiration for Gene Wilder with me. Gene had Alzheimer’s too. 

At the end of Young Frankenstein, the Dr shares his genius brain with the monster to give him a chance at living a normal life, but the Dr ends up getting a part of the ‘Abby Normal’ brain in the process. We now see the irony of this in our own family, as we share Dad’s genes…ha! Dad’s Gene(Wilder). We all joke about the Abby Normal part of our Kardatzke brains and hope the Dr Frankenstein half is stronger…only time will tell. But every so often if I hear a solo violin playing the YF theme (with a French horn in the background) a glaze falls over my eyes and I follow it wherever it may lead.

I’d Rather Have Jesus

Choices are important. We make them multiple times a day, from what to eat to who we spend time with, from where we go to what we believe. 30 years ago I chose Mike to be my husband, my confidant, my best friend, my partner, but it didn’t stop there. I make that choice every single day. I don’t always feel like it. Over 35 years (or 12,775 days if you prefer) of being together, there have been hundreds of days we didn’t like each other very much. Many of those have been strung together to form months and even a few years, but we continued making the same choice of staying, working on us. That consistency has made all the difference. 

Yesterday as I sat in a church experiencing the beautiful memorial service of a father and son who were taken from the world much too soon through senseless tragedy, I finally felt at peace with my faith and doubts. I’ve wrestled all my adult life with belief in God. I’ve struggled with not having life’s answers and desperately wanting to know the truth behind everything in the universe and beyond. I’ve repeatedly pulled my beliefs out of my spiritual backpack and examined them, discarding those that have not stood the test of time and trial, and have carefully folded and repacked those that have helped me navigate the narrow path. I’ve often felt lonely as I’ve discovered my personal faith journey can’t be defined by a church or a religion, though my belief in Jesus as my Savior keeps me under the Christian awning. As I listened yesterday to the description of father and son and saw their caskets side by side, my spirit inhaled peace. I felt strongly they weren’t there, but they still WERE…they still are, and will always be. I realized I still choose Jesus. I don’t know much of anything. I have no proof and can’t explain why things are the way they are. I’m sad and I often feel abandoned by God, but I choose Him anyway. 

I’d rather have Jesus. Yes I grew up in a loving Christian home so much of what I’ve learned in life and what has made sense to me came from what I was taught. But I also can’t get over this God who loves the world so much He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. I can’t quit hoping for the God of the Universe to love us so much He died to give us life. No wonder all of our best hero fables and stories have that same theme. Maybe the same story keeps getting retold with new names because it’s built on truth. The only God that’s good enough for me is one who will go to hell and back to save me. He’s my Perseus who will fight every evil to find me, my Frodo who will travel to Mordor at any cost for my redemption, my Mr. Darcy who quietly cleaned up every mess in my life and pledged His undying love for me….He’s my Hero…my Savior. 

I don’t really know anything. I just believe in love, and that kind of love, the kind that  “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” (1 Cor.13:7) is the one I choose.

I’d Rather Have Jesus

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold I’d rather be his than have riches untold

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land

Yes I’d rather be led by his nail pierced hands

Than to be the king of a best domain and beheld in sins dread sway

I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today

I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause I’d rather be faithful to his dear cause

I’d rather have Jesus than world wide things I’d rather be true to his holy name

Than to be the king…

Eye of a Hurricane

I’m struggling with words. My brain feels numb my body feels sluggish, my spirit feels hushed. Like I’m waiting for something else to happen…the next shockwave to hit. Unexpected grief is overwhelming, even when it’s secondary. I didn’t lose someone in my immediate family, but just knowing someone I cared about was there one minute and gone the next is unfathomable. I feel a constant throbbing emptiness that I shove down and put a lid on so I can smile and keep going with day to day routines. 

I’m speechless. I have no words of comfort except “We’re in this together,” “I love you” “we have each other.” I believe in God, in eternity, I put my hope in this, but I don’t know anything. I listen to the silence and strangely find some peace. I trust in the silence. There’s seems to be something bigger there than my perception and I will rest in this belief. 

Some talk too much, saying things out of nervousness or fear, too many words that seem disingenuous. We should just touch someone’s shoulder or squeeze a hand instead of speaking. Words can’t sum up or define the complete absence of a human being we have loved. To have heard their laughter a few days ago, seen their smile, and now they’ve vanished forever from sight, from hearing, from hugs. Gone. 

Where?

Someday I also will go into the unknown. I can only trust what I hope in, in Whom I believe. That there truly will come a day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.””Revelation 21:4 NIV 

For now, my eyes are swollen and my vision is blurred with the sorrow of loss, of the darkness in this world. No words can describe the ache. I just breathe deeply and listen to the quiet. I bow my head in reverence to the stillness. There’s something, someone in it, I feel the presence and peace, though heartache, agony, and despair swirl around me…it’s as if I’m in the eye of a hurricane. That strong calm center everything else circles. I will trust in the promises.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:19 NIV

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4 NIV

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:2-3 NIV

All the Year

I know I reference A Christmas Carol frequently throughout the year, but I have never felt the following quote from the musical Scrooge to it’s capacity until now. Scrooge has just witnessed the whole town singing in joyful gratitude that their debts have been forgiven. He joins in the singing not realizing their happiness is from his future death. He then watches the Cratchets as they mourn Tiny Tim. He’s confused by the height and depth of the opposite emotions.

“Spirit you’ve shown me a Christmas yet to comes that mingles great happiness with great sadness.”

This week has been a week of extreme, polar opposite feelings. My 50th birthday brought great joy, love, and thankfulness as I spent cherished time with family and friends. I am humbled by all that I experienced in a fantastic party thrown by my dear friend and soul sister with laughter, fabulous food, wine, and dancing with my beloved grandson Theo. I felt so incredibly celebrated!!!

Yet on my very birthday the world lost a dear cherished person, a friend of mine from church, to a freak accident. Here I have been fretting over turning 50 when I should realize how lucky I am to even BE. 

Then, on the day of my great celebration a precious young student of mine was taken from us through a tragic senseless accident caused by a drunk driver. I was watching my 16 month old grandson Theo dancing at my party with overflowing joy in my heart that was mixed with heavy sorrow at the loss of this sweet kindhearted student, and I couldn’t process everything I was feeling. Such joy and gratitude and such heavy hearted deep sorrow. Seemingly opposite emotions, yet inexplicably intertwined. One cannot exist without the other. As CS Lewis said in A Grief Observed, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” They are forever joined as one can’t truly be experienced without its counterpart. 

In this life we laugh and we cry, but let us humbly bow our heads in both joy and sorrow, as love and gratitude bind them together. May we choose to live every day to the fullest, making sure we tell each other how we feel and share our love with all we have the privilege to meet, for we may never pass this way again, and I for one want you to know I’m so thankful for you my cherished family and friends. Again I share my favorite quote from Scrooge which my dearest friend who I call both little sister and niece, paraphrased in etching on my birthday wine glass, 

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

50!

Well it’s finally here…my 50th birthday.

I apologize to those of you who have already passed this milestone and transitioned graciously and effortlessly. You’re much more mature than I am which proves age and maturity don’t go hand in hand. If they did I wouldn’t be writing this, would I? I’d accept myself at every age with a peaceful heart and smile. I’d be happy in my gray hair (THANK GOD FOR MY COLOR SPECIALIST) and my wrinkly, translucent skin. Seriously, why do my veins look neon blue and like they might pop out and punch someone in the eye for staring too long??  I guess I’ve been subconsciously preparing myself for this day for months, and I’m pretty sure I can sum up the experience with the different stages of grief.

Denial-“I can’t be 50…that’s my mom’s age, or at least the age she SHOULD be…” 

“They say 50’s the new 30!” 

“I could pass for 39.”

Anger-“Ridiculous!!! I’ve barely lived!!! I’m still figuring out what I want to do and be in this world!!! STOP THE #%?! TRAIN FOR JUST A FEW FREAKING YEARS PLEASE!!! THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!! HOW RUDE!!!”

Bargaining-“I’ll exercise an hour every day, eat spinach and blueberries and almonds, drink less wine, lose 30 lbs, and at least look and feel 30 on my 50th!” (This lasted through the first two weeks of January)

Depression-“Why try? I’m not a published songwriter or author, I’m not famous, and I’m 50!!! Might as well sit on my butt and eat cookies with my wine…I’ve got 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls to catch up on and a reunion mini-series.”

Acceptance-I’ll get back to you on this one…I’ve still got half of season 7 and the reunion to go…😂

Truth be told, I’m in a pretty good headspace at the moment. Life does move too fast…but at least the windows are down and there’s a fresh breeze blowing through my color-treated hair! Thanks for being on this train with me…it’s good to know all my friends are with me at every crazy stage in life. We are not alone…we have each other…so put your floppy loose-skinned hand in mine and sing me my birthday song!!! 

CHEERS TO 50 and counting!!!🍷