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cirlce of life, love, family

Last week, I left Oklahoma around 1:00pm to make the oh-so-familiar drive up I35 to Iowa. I have driven that route so many times in my life that I could navigate it in my sleep. And sometimes I do. ;)

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day, and it dawned cold and clear in Iowa. My mom’s side of the family gathered at a local church, as we have been doing the past several years…ever since we outgrew my grandparents’ farm house. We always form a {giant} circle before we eat. We count how many are there, and then we pray. It is a sweet, sweet tradition, and I know every single one of my relatives would agree in saying that The Circle is a special place with a special feeling of love and safety and family.

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{my grandparents are on the left above}

This year there were fifty-five people in The Circle. I believe a few more may have come in later. This represents only my mom’s parents’ direct descendants. Just them, their ten children, their grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Oh, and the fifty-five people there weren’t even a full showing. We’re a large family.

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Of course, after we pray, we eat.

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{My aunt Cindy baked this delicious pie! I ate a piece before I even fixed a plate of food. Because that’s how I roll. And that’s why I roll…}

Before and after the meal, there are always multiple games of Rook going on around the room. My grandpa is better at Rook than your grandpa. My nine year old cousin is better at Rook than you are.

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After the meal, I conducted an impromptu engagement session for my sweet cousin Anna and her fiance Michael. They braved the cold and totally rocked it for our quick shoot. It doesn’t hurt that they are adorable and completely and happily in love.

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To say that I had a wonderful Thanksgiving would be an understatement. I missed my dad’s side of the family, because I had to get back for a wedding here on Saturday. But I did stop and see my grandma {dad’s mom} on my way out of town, and she gave me a bag filled with homemade cookies and zucchini bread, to enjoy on the drive home. I love my family!!!

Hope you have all recovered from the holiday weekend. :)

~abi~

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jaredwanzerphotographyNovember 30, 2010 - 6:06 pm

I really like Michaels coat I think I want one ha.
Great pictures!

Kelly BeaneDecember 1, 2010 - 3:03 am

Sweet times and photos!

CaseyDecember 1, 2010 - 4:41 am

Love The Circle! What a sweet family you have!

AnonymousDecember 1, 2010 - 8:00 pm

I feel honored that my pie made your blog! cindy

Best Military storiesOctober 24, 2011 - 5:32 am

Its really great to spend the time with our dear ones. The images are really good.

Oklahoma has coolness to offer

So, if you are looking for a good read this week, I’ve got a great recommendation for you. Head over to one of my favorite blogs, Jeremy & Kathleen, and check out Kathleen’s riveting tale of their Everest Base Camp Trek.

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Kathleen is an excellent writer and illustrator. She is living, blogging proof that Oklahoma is capable of producing some of the coolest people on this planet! I am warning you now, her blog is addictive!

~abi~

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And KathleenNovember 29, 2010 - 6:24 pm

Aw, shucks! Thanks, Abi!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

I am thankful that I was born into a family who are strong believers.  My parents came to Christ before I was born.  Their lives were completely transformed by God.  Faith has always come easily for me, because it has always been a part of my life.  I don’t know who or where I would be without the spiritual foundation my parents formed for me.

I cannot imagine my life without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The freedom, joy, and peace I experience through my relationship with Him is so amazing.  I would be a complete and utter dismal mess and failure without God.

I am thankful for my wonderful family, immediate and extended.  My grandparents on each side are a supreme example of true love and dedication to their spouses, of hard work, commitment, and good character.  My aunts and uncles and cousins constantly cushion me with love and support and camaraderie.

My parents are both the hardest working individuals I know.  My dad has always worked hard to support his family.  He is constantly repairing things for us, whether it be around the house or on our vehicles.  My mom always puts her family first, quick to sacrifice her own wants or needs or desires in order to give us more.  My brother Abe is funny and gifted.  He is passionate about his beliefs and has the most tender heart of anyone I know.  My sister Mandi is the definition of a survivor.  She has battled through some crazy circumstances and has kept her head held high when most others would have thrown in the towel.  My sister Amber is wise and pure and good.  She is the perfect one. :)  She is an example to me in every aspect of life.  My brother Jack was hilarious and brave and intelligent.  He loved his wife with a love more amazing than I have ever witnessed elsewhere.  My sis in law Ashley is broken yet strong.  She is weathering the loss of her soul mate, her true love.  She brought so much happiness into Jack’s life, and she continues to bring joy to my family.  My niece Laila has influenced me to be a better person.  She has so much depth to her character.  When you look in her eyes, you can see her past conflicts overcome by her inner strength.  My nephew DJ is so intuitive and such an understanding individual.  When he was born, he changed our family in such a positive way, as only a first grandchild/nephew/niece can.  My nephew Jace is so smart and funny and has all the ingredients to be hugely successful at whatever he chooses to do in life.  He has a sensitive and caring heart for others.  My nephew Daxon is the wild man who is always guaranteed to make us all laugh.  His spirit is unbreakable, which is awesome.

I am thankful for my church family.  For Scott and Anna for believing in me always, more than I even believe in myself.  For Deidra, who always genuinely wants to listen to what is going on in my life and as a bonus always has great advice for me.  For Robert, whose spiritual insight and wisdom he offers freely and humbly.  For Vince, who calls me Miss America and makes me laugh.  For Kendra, who truly shows her appreciation for me.   And for all the other lovely LC staffers who make N-Dub the best place ever! :)

I am so thankful and amazed by my fabulous lifegroup. The faith and love and support and growth demonstrated by this group of people just astounds me and encourages me. You are all such a blessing to me! I will have to do a more in depth post on this in the future!

I am forever thankful for all of the beautiful souls who I am fortunate enough to call my close friends. This also will be a future post, or more likely several posts. There are so many wonderful people who have impacted my life!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!!

~abi~

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nonsense

Today I don’t have many clever thoughts to share.  I am drawing a bit of a blank.  I am in a pre-Thanksgiving-food-coma or something like that.  The only interesting thing I can think of is this handwritten sign I have seen close by my work.  It keeps popping into my head.  It just says “Chimney Sweep” and it lists a phone number.  Did I mention that it is lettered by hand?  So charming.  I just want to call the number so that I can hang out with a real live, modern day chimney sweep.  When you think chimney sweep, you think Bert from Mary Poppins, right??  Admittedly, Bert freaks me out just a little, so I am not sure why I want to meet this homemade-sign-maker chimney sweep.  I guess it is my eternal fascination with the human race.  And I have to think that someone who would choose chimney sweep as a career would be somewhat interesting.  Add onto that the fact that he/she makes their own signs and puts them out to advertise on street corners, and I’m sold.  And you know what?  There is actually a fireplace in my house, so I would have a valid reason to contact this fascinating individual.  So, we never actually make a real fire in it…maybe it’s because we need to have the chimney cleaned first! 

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got.  A chimney sweep who hand letters signs.  Hmm.

So I guess I will share a photo from a recent session that I absolutely adored!  This little fashionista is Layne.  She has a better wardrobe than most girls my age.  She’s nine. 

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I will share more of this shoot in the future, because it’s just too much fun to keep to myself!

~abi~

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dealing with grief and giving thanks

Yesterday was a busy day…as was the day before that…and the day before that.  I have been going at a seemingly nonstop pace, and I pretty much love it.  One negative aspect of my recent jam-packed schedule is that I tend to forget stuff more often than usual.  Okay, so I am always pretty forgetful, not just when I am extra busy.  Maybe it’s because I am advancing in years.  Or maybe it’s all the drugs I did in my past.  Oh wait, I never did any drugs.  So much for that dramatic tale excuse.

I even forgot a photo session this past Sunday.  Yep, I just admitted that on my blog.  Fire me, kill me, or whatever.  I am human.  And hey, it wasn’t a wedding, so we just rescheduled for this Sunday.  My client was very kind and understanding.  Whew. And just fyi, I tend to remember weddings…and this session had been moved around a few times to different dates… Okay, I’m done with the explanations.

Now we’ve established my busy-ness and my forgetfulness.  So, when my mom called me yesterday to see if I could attend the OKC Thunder game with her and my dad, I wasn’t all eager and thrilled like I normally would be.  First of all, I had completely forgotten that she had mentioned it to me previously.  And secondly, I had stuff to do.  You know, because I am busy.  I told her that if one of my siblings were able to go instead, that was fine with me.  She responded that my sister Mandi and my nephews were going, and that my brother Abe couldn’t go because of work.  I knew that my sister Amber was out of town watching my niece Laila play basketball, so they were out.  That left one ticket…and me.  So I was in.  And I am so glad I was able to go, because this thanksgiving week, it gave me a great reminder about being thankful!

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{my super-crazy-fun nephew Daxon, breaking it down on our way into the game}

Because let me just tell you about those tickets.  They were special.  No, they weren’t courtside seats or anything like that.  They were up in Loud City, which was very fun; but the location of our seats wasn’t what made them special.

This is what made them special:

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The above image is part of a letter sent to my mom along with the tickets for my family to attend the game.  As I have mentioned, my younger brother Jack was killed last year while serving in the Special Forces in the Philippines.  And ever since then, I have been overwhelmed by the remembrance and support of others.  Like these high school students, who just wanted to do something for families who have suffered a military-related loss.  Wow.

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{my good looking, good-hearted parents}

When my mom explained to me last night where the tickets came from, I was touched.  Really touched.  My busy schedule and list of stuff to do went out the window.  I was thankful.  Thankful for kids who are aware and want to help in some way.  Thankful to be spending time with my family…something that has been all too scarce for me lately.  Thankful for the amazing family I have.

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{my hot and clever sister Mandi}

See, ever since Jack died, I have struggled a little with family get-togethers.  In the past, before, family time was one of my favorite things in life.  But since Jack is gone now, even when we are “all” together, we aren’t…  So it has been strange.

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{my too-cool-too-cute nephew DJ}

But last night, my heart was warmed by my parents’ witty repartee.  My soul was comforted by the casual conversations with my sister.  My inner child was entertained by my nephews’ awesomely hilarious remarks and my spirit was buoyed by their laughter.  We cheered and yelled and screamed together.  And we weren’t complete, but it was special and it was fun.

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{my smarty-pants-cutey-pants nephew Jace}

And I am thankful.

People never ask me what it’s like to experience the unexpected loss of a sibling.  They probably don’t want to bring up a painful subject.  Plus, who really wants to talk about tragic death?  But if someone were to ask me, I would say it’s something like this:

You might go to a basketball game with your family, and have a great time.  And then, on the way home, you realize with a jolt that the reason you were able to go to that game that night is because some high school students in another state wanted to reach out to people who had suffered a loss.  And even though it’s been over a year, you experience a bit of shock once again as you realize that you are that person who has suffered a loss.  Your younger brother is dead.  And then the familiar and yet strange emotions of loss, grief, pride, comfort, hurt, healing and even thankfulness wash over you in waves, all within a brief moment.

~abi~

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Bethany LarieNovember 23, 2010 - 10:19 pm

Abi, Im crying! I am so thankful for you in my life. Im sorry for your loss. although I am extremely proud of you and your families strength. I don't know if I would be able to continue to be strong! I pray for you guys daily and do really think of you often. I miss your beautiful smile and friendliness all the way around. I love reading your blog. It just reminds me of what a great Godly Glamorous girl God placed in my life. I'm sorry if I have ever seemed selfish to you. I love you and your family!!!

JacquelynNovember 23, 2010 - 10:51 pm

I'm sitting at my desk crying, friend. First of all, for you, on your behalf. Second of all, because I really needed to read this. I have been seriously considering skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family this year. I just can't imagine it without my best friend, my partner in crime, my sweet grandma. Who am I going to talk to? Who is going to laugh at all of my jokes? But, this is a good reminder that I can take this opportunity to be grateful for the rest of my wonderful family.

Soul sister. Like, for reals.

. sarah .November 23, 2010 - 11:53 pm

Tears here as well, Abi. I cannot imagine that feeling of not everyone being at a family get together for the rest of my life. I'm so sorry your family has had to endure such a hardship, but am comforted for you that you all have Him to rely on! Praying for you and your family as the holidays approach!

AnonymousNovember 24, 2010 - 12:15 am

It may not be something you ever get over… just get through. Stay strong. You are beautiful!!

AnonymousNovember 24, 2010 - 12:43 am

You really did a good job putting it down in writing I love you Abi MOM