There aren’t many people in life that you can truly admire from every single aspect of who they are. But I can tell you with all of my heart that my grandaddy was a person that I strive to be like in every single way. And I hope to live a life as full as his.

We lost my grandaddy last Saturday. And it’s been since that day that I feel like a piece of my heart is missing. My family and I are very close. I spoke with my grandparents often. Although we live far from one another, with the wonders of technology, we’ve been able to see each other as often as we’d like. I’d always FaceTime my granny (because grandaddy never got around to recent technology) and every single time we’d talk I’d see grandaddy’s head peek over the phone with a “who’s that?” Once he saw it was me, he usually greeted me with a joke and then we’d exchange stories of what was going on in our lives. There was never a phone call that I had with him when I didn’t hang up the phone with a smile.

And it’s been that way my entire life. You could never not smile around grandaddy. It was his mission to have everyone happy and smiling. And he succeeded. Whether it was him bouncing us on his knee when we were little doing “ride the horsey” or taking us on adventures across the country in his motor home, he wanted to make sure we were happy and having fun.

Grandaddy was always the playful type. He’d be the first one my sister and I would run to when we wanted to go outside and play on his four-wheelers. He’d be the first one that was on the floor rolling around with us or outside on the swing set pushing us on the swing. If grandaddy was near, we wanted him right by our side. And he was. Every step of the way.

When I was 10 years old my mom underwent brain surgery. My sister was nine and my brothers were both less than two years old. While my mom and dad were both in the hospital, my granny and grandaddy came down to Tampa to take care of us kids. At 10 years old you don’t know how to process your mother possibly facing death. And while I felt it was my responsibility as the oldest to take care of my brothers and sister, it was my grandaddy who reminded me that I didn’t need to bear that responsibility, what I needed was to be a 1o year old little girl. It was in some of those darkest days that grandaddy was there making me smile, laugh, and put my mind at ease. It was through his relentless jokes, his funny stories of when he was a child, or just making funny faces, that he’d make sure we knew that everything was going to be okay.

The last time I saw my grandaddy was last summer. I drove up with the kids on our way home from our time at my parents in Florida.  During our stay we laughed and joked the way that we always did, but what stood out to me the most was how much fun my kids had with him. Macks was the first one to run and jump on GG, as they referred to him. While he wasn’t quite able to get around like he used to, that didn’t stop him from joining in on the rambunctiousness that my kids were taking part in. They used his knee as a horse just as I had done in that very same living room 30 years before. They sat in his lap while he told them stories to make them laugh just as he’d told me when I was a little girl. And the look that I saw on my kids faces as he made them laugh, was the same look and laughter that I took part in for my entire life. And that’s the memory that they will have with their GG.

As we left my grandparents house that afternoon before heading back home, my grandaddy asked me to come up and hug his neck just as he always did. “I love you Lauren,” he said with tears streaming down his face. “I love you too,” I said as I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed him tight.

I had 32 of the most wonderful and joyous years with a man who walked right by my side when I needed him. And even though he’s not with us here on earth, I know that he’s still walking next to me every step of the way.

One of the greatest gifts you have in life is love. My grandaddy taught me what true love is. It wasn’t just the way that he looked at my granny or how he insisted that we hugged his neck every time we saw him, but it was the selfless kind of love. It was the kind of love that would walk up to a stranger and invite them into his home. The kind of love that made sure he went up to every person in a crowded room so that they would feel welcome. My grandaddy was full of love and he made sure that everyone around him had a piece of it.

So today I want to give you a piece of that love that grandaddy gave me throughout life.  Go and do just like grandaddy did and pass it along to others. Because what an amazing thing that would be if we all shared love the way grandaddy did.

I’m a pretty hands-off mom and want my children to be able to express themselves and learn for themselves. Of course I have my moments that I turn into a helicopter mom, but for the most part, I love being able to watch from the sidelines as they discover the world for themselves.

Ever since the girls’ were able to, I’ve been giving them the freedom of getting themselves dressed each morning. They are very picky about what they wear and honestly, it’s not a battle that’s worth fighting. Usually it’s a dress with shoes or during the winter it’s a dress with tights, or a skirt, tights, and a shirt. They don’t get too crazy on their outfits, but there are times when they come downstairs with outfits that have several different patterns or colors. I usually smile, applaud them for doing it all on their own, and then let them enjoy their day.

Harlan has always taken pride in her outfits. She loves styling and putting things together. She’s had some pretty incredible outfits, and has never once batted an eye when she walks out of the house. I’ve always admired her confidence and ability to feel so secure in all of her decisions and herself.

And then something changed.

A couple of weeks ago as the weather really started to get cold, I pulled out the kids’ winter hats. As Har was getting out of the car for school, I told her to put it on. She assured me she would do it as soon as she got out, and quickly shut the door before running inside school – sans hat. I didn’t think anything of it other than that she probably didn’t want to mess up her hair (she’s big into braids lately,) so I let it go.

The next morning I noticed her hat wasn’t on again. I prompted her to put it on as the temperatures were near freezing and she was hesitant. She didn’t do her hair that morning so I knew that wasn’t the problem. There was a reason behind why she wouldn’t put on that hat and I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason. I let it go for the morning as I didn’t want to stress her out before school started.

That afternoon as I picked her up from school I noticed she was wearing the hat. She was all smiles and seemed fine, so I didn’t press the issue from earlier that morning.

And then it happened again the next morning. Third day in a row she refused to put the hat on when she went to school. Finally I asked why. She was very honest and upfront with me.

“I just don’t want anyone to make fun of me for it.”

There it was. A sentence I’d been dreading, yet knew it would come someday. It just came sooner than I would’ve thought.

She was letting them in. Their thoughts and opinions began to consume her. Suddenly she couldn’t think for herself anymore, she was letting others do some of it for her.

I assured her that no one was going to make fun of her for her hat and even assured her that her hat looked very similar to the hat that I had on and I was wearing mine proudly and confidently. You could tell she contemplated my statement before hesitating to put on her hat. But she ended up putting it on and it was still on when I picked her up from school that afternoon.

“Was the hat okay today?” I asked nonchalantly after school.

“Yep!” she exclaimed as we walked to the car.

She hasn’t hesitated with the hat since.

But that hat means so much more than just something used to keep her head warm. That hat took away some of her innocence. That hat brought on insecurity and fear. It let others in. It let the judgement of others show.

That hat took away some of my little girl.

That wall around her is slowly breaking. And here I am right behind her desperately trying to build it back up before it all comes crumbling down. And then I’ll teach her how we can build it back up together. One step of confidence at a time.

It’s hard to believe that this year is almost over! We’re in relaxation mode this week. The kids have off of school and I am catching up on work. We’re headed to Massachusetts this weekend for a fun ski weekend with my family. The kids are excited to get their skis on and I am excited to have a weekend away spending time with the ones that I love.

I was looking back at photos from Chritsmas and found this set of the kids that I attempted to take before we went to church. It’s never easy getting all three to look at the camera and smile (as I’m sure you know) and I swear that sometimes the outtakes are better than the “perfect” one I pictured in my mind. I thought I’d share the outtakes because it shows the kids’ personalities perfectly. I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

When Uncle Chips is behind the camera, everyone is having laughing fits.

Almost the shot! If only they were all looking at the camera.

This was our first take. They all look a little stunned.

Macks’ face on this photo as he sees Avery’s hand on his shoulder is hilarious!

Two out of three ain’t bad!

That’s what makes me happy.

Now tell me something good. Something that’s made you happy. It can be big, it can be small, just something that has put a smile on your face. You can participate by sharing a photo on Wednesday with the hashtag #WhyImHappyWednesday and tagging me @laurenjimeson or feel free to write it in the comments below. I do read them all and am happy to reply back on your good news! You can also join in the conversation on my Facebook page!