Inspiration has temporarily left me as life has become a little too real for eloquent phrasing, funny anecdotes, and clever metaphors. But I have had time to appreciate the pauses in the tumultuous ride along the recent way. Pauses such as coming home to my family for Christmas for the first time since 2006. I'd like to say I coped just fine over the last few years without them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I am too much of a sucker for family traditions and my mother's cooking. Being home for a full week was just necessary this year. Here are just a few of my favorite moments spent home:

Laughing hysterically to my little brother's inappropriate jokes.

Letting go and letting my 15 1/2 year old sister with her learner's permit drive me to get ice cream with her and my baby sister.

Helping clean my sister Nicole's house as she prepped for a Christmas dinner for her in-laws. Felt like the old days when we used to join forces together to get things done.

Having my precious niece fall asleep in my arms while I kiss her chubby cheeks.

Looking at Christmas lights with my 92 year old Granny.

Playing late night card games with all of the women in my family.

Taking a drive into the country by myself.

Picking up where I left off almost four years ago with an old friend. Easily. Naturally.

Listening to my brother Michael wrestle out new chords on his guitar as he wrestles out other issues with life.

Receiving wisdom from my mother while we wiped away tears from both of our eyes.

And while it has been hard to watch Brad trudge through his own sadness lately for his brother, I got joy as I saw him find some moments of respite from the sorrow with my ridiculous and hysterical family.

For one week I felt normal again and not displaced. No longer an Okie outsider, but one of my own. Yes, with a little less accent and a little more tolerance for the cold, but whole and happy none the less.

I'll also never forget the words from my father in a car ride together through town. I told him my soul was weary and I was tired of pithy prayers and trite lines of sympathy from others. He said, "Rikki, when you think you've done all you can do, then all that's left to do is just stand." Some wise guy named Paul was the original author for those words, but I liked hearing it better from my dad.

These days I don't feel like I'm good for much. Creativity and initiative is all but lost for the time being. But I've got steel and stubborn bred in me, two legs that still work, and a community of prayerful love and support that helps to keep this old soul upright.